Olympic Notes: Team USA, Ewing, Popovich, Durant

Losses by Team USA in international competition are no longer surprising, so head coach Gregg Popovich bristled when that word was mentioned after his team fell to France this morning in its Olympic opener, tweets Ben Golliver of The Washington Post. France took control of the game late, finishing with a 16-2 run to claim an 83-76 victory that snapped a 25-game Olympic winning streak for the United States.

“When you lose a game, you’re not surprised,” Popovich told reporters. “You’re disappointed. I don’t understand the word ‘surprised.’ That sort of disses the French team, as if we’re supposed to beat them by 30. That’s a hell of a team.”

France was led by Celtics guard Evan Fournier, who scored 28 points and hit a three-pointer with a minute left that gave his team the lead for good. Fournier will become a free agent next month, but first he wants to enjoy the Olympic experience.

“They are better individually,” he said of the Americans, “but they can be beaten as a team” (Twitter link).

There’s more on the Olympics:

  • The loss doesn’t come as a surprise to Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing, who was part of the original “Dream Team” in 1992, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. “It’s harder to play now because of the Dream Team,” Ewing said. “All of the current players grew up looking up to us and watching us dominate the rest of the world. But the rest of the world caught up. There are so many talented players. Some of the NBA’s top players today come from all over the world. It wasn’t like that back then.’’
  • Popovich is a legendary coach in the NBA, but he hasn’t achieved the same success in international basketball, notes Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press. The three teams Popovich has been part of in the Olympics or world championships have earned just one medal, an Olympic bronze in 2004.
  • There’s been plenty of chaos for Team USA in its Olympic preparation, with COVID-19 disruptions and the late arrival of three team members who took part in the NBA Finals, but the players understand that expectations haven’t changed, Golliver states in a full story“Every team wants to beat us,” Kevin Durant said. “Everybody wants to see us lose. A lot of guys dropped out, (and there have been) a lot of circumstances (affecting player availability). I’m sure other teams have seen us lose and feel confident coming into the tournament. We understand what we’re getting ourselves into, and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
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