Everything comes together at this point. United States and France they will fight a duel to be crowned as the new Olympic Games champions in the edition of Tokyo 2020, precisely the two opponents who starred in one of the first duels in the tournament and which sounded all the alarms in the North American team. Now, after having overcome all their rivals with forcefulness, the two best teams of these Games they will have to face one last challenge if they want to hang the gold medal.
The match will start at 9:30 p.m. from Mexico and 11:30 p.m. from Argentina on Friday, August 6, and it will happen before the bronze dispute between Australia and Slovenia (MX 4:30, AR 6:30).
United States, in search of revenge
France appears in this Olympic final with the honor of having been the first and only team to beat the United States in these Olympic Games. But not only that, the Gauls achieved what Spain and other great teams could not between 2008 and 2016, ending a streak of 25 consecutive games without knowing the defeat.
The French have not yet fallen in this tournament, treasuring a balance of 5-0 by the 4-1 of the North Americans. There is something about the French team that has fully affected Team USA’s weaknesses in the last two FIBA tournaments, as Vincent Collet’s also beat them at the last World Cup in China in the quarterfinals.
That defeat on the opening day in Tokyo served as balm for the Americans, who since then have been growing, especially from defense, which has allowed them to form a solid team capable of solving any disadvantage at the start of a match. Although only a few days have passed, the United States has evolved enormously since that coup, leaving behind the mistakes that led them to fall in that way, now they are a group more than united and consolidated.
Team USA has only lost one Olympic final in its history, that of 1972, not without controversy even to this day, a fact that plays in favor of the Americans, who will leave motivated and wanting to prove that what happened in the debut was an exception.
Defense, the pillar of France
Without making a lot of noise and doing things the right way, France has managed to sneak into the third Olympic final in its history, matching what was done in Sydney 2000 and London 1948, where they also faced the North Americans. Those of Collet have in their hand to do something that only Argentina has been able to since the NBA players were allowed to participate with their respective teams: win gold. To achieve this, the Gauls will have to entrust themselves to their main virtue, which is defense, the pillar that has sustained the French on their way to the final. Without going any further, in the semifinal they left “only” 89 points to a Slovenia that had not dropped below 94 and had been averaging 105.7 points per game up to that moment.
All the weight of the defense system of France has fallen, how could it be otherwise, on Rudy Gobert and Nicolas Batum. With both veterans spearheading their defense, the French have managed to keep their opponents under 75.8 points per night. More than remarkable is the fact that in his last duel Against the United States, they remained at 40.5% in shots of 2 and 31.2% in triples. The key to this performance is in the protection of the paint, making everything converge in Gobert as the main axis of the system, conditioning the opponent’s decision-making and demonstrating his great talent for defense. Far from the image that one has of the Jazz pivot, he has managed to make an impact even coming out of the paint, as happened against Slovenia, where thanks to his aggressiveness in direct blocks he was able to contain Luka Doncic.
If the French aspire to surprise and win the gold medal should minimize errors in attack while forcing the United States to play slowly, to reduce their fluidity in the pass, for which they need to contain them on the dribble and disable their proposal based on splitting and doubling. That belief in creating continued advantage has been the pillar that has sustained Team USA and what can make France an Olympic champion.
How far will Durant go?
That Kevin Durant was going to be the most differential player in the US National Team was something more or less predictable. His return season after the serious injury suffered in 2019 cleared all doubts regarding his talent and impact on the game, including a few Playoffs to remember. With a US squad not as talented as in other editions of the Games, KD has emerged as the great leader and top scorer for Gregg Popovich’s team. ANDThe forward started the tournament ranked 36th on the list of top scorers in history with 311 points. and after 5 games in Tokyo, the Nets player has climbed to the 13th place, becoming the most prolific of all time in Team USA, leaving behind Carmelo Anthony (336).
But the thing does not end here, since Kevin Durant is just 13 points behind Arvydas Sabonis, who is in 11th place in the general table., a figure that should quickly reach in the Olympic final. However, if we look at what KD has seen on the last two occasions he played a game for gold, scoring 30 points against Spain (2012) and Serbia (2016), the forward could even end his career in the Games as the 10th highest scorer, as he is separated by 34 goals from Ruperto Herrera (440). To achieve this he would have to surpass his maximum in Tokyo, set at 29 against Spain in the quarterfinals, but he has already shown that he is ready to do so.
So far this tournament, Durant averages 19 points with 66% on shots of 2 and 38% on triples, to which add 5.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists, being the fifth highest scorer in the competition.
The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the NBA or its organizations.