The French humbled the Americans with a 83-76 victory to open the preliminary group stage round. The loss marks the United States’ first Olympic defeat since 2004 when it fell to both Puerto Rico and Lithuania in group play.
The nail in the coffin came when Boston Celtics’ Evan Fournier drilled a 3-pointer with a minute to play, completing the French comeback after the U.S. had an eight-point lead with four minutes to play. Fournier led Team France to victory, scoring 28 points during the game.
When asked if he was surprised by the loss, Popovich scoffed at the notion.
“There’s nothing to be surprised about,” said Team USA coach Gregg Popovich. “When you lose a game, you’re not surprised. You’re disappointed, but I don’t understand the word surprised. That sort of disses the French team, so to speak, as if we’re supposed to beat them by 30 or something. That’s a hell of a team.”
The defeat does not necessarily mean Team USA won’t medal, as they still have a chance of advancing to the quarterfinals if it wins its matches against Iran and the Czech Republic.
“I think we have a history of dominance and maybe not always blowing people out, but we have a history of winning. And it’s not often that you see Team USA go out there and lose, especially to start,” said guard Damian Lillard.
“I think that’s why a lot of people will make it seem like the end of the world, but our job as professionals and this team and representing our country at the Olympics, we’ve got to do what’s necessary and we still can accomplish what we came here to accomplish. We were just trying too hard to do the right thing,” Lillard said. “Instead of just being who we are — the best players in the NBA.”
Team USA will face Team Iran on Wednesday, seeking to redeem themselves after the crushing loss.