Kevin Durant dazzled as Team USA won a fourth successive Olympic men's basketball gold medal, edging out France 87-82 in Saturday's final.

A game-high haul of 29 points from Brooklyn Nets superstar Durant saw the United States to a victory that avenged their opening group-stage loss to France.

It meant the USA kept up their strong recent record on the Olympic stage, with Durant securing a third gold medal of his career.

Jayson Tatum weighed in with 19 points, while France had five players in double figures but nobody in their ranks scored more than the 16 points managed by both Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier.

The USA led by 11 points at 71-57 in the third quarter, but an impressive France cut that advantage to three points at 73-70 with 5:42 remaining of the fourth after Frank Ntilikina drained a three-pointer

France again reined in a double-digit lead to get back to 85-82 in arrears with 10 seconds remaining, but a foul by Gobert on Durant gave the USA's star man the chance to put the game away, which he seized by making both his free throws.

The Brooklyn Nets and superstar Kevin Durant have reached an agreement on a four-year, $198 million contract extension, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Friday.

Like all deals agreed since Monday, Durant's extension will become official on Saturday after the end of the NBA's free agency moratorium.

The contract was reported hours before Durant and the rest of Team USA play France for the Olympic gold medal in Japan.

Durant, 32, averaged 26.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists in 2020-21 in his first season back from a ruptured Achilles tendon.

A former league MVP and two-time Finals MVP, Durant played just 35 games last season as the Nets cautiously handled a series of minor injuries.

In the postseason, however, he played in all 12 of Brooklyn's games, including all 53 minutes in the Nets' second-round, Game 7 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Durant scored 34.3 points per game in the playoffs while shooting 51.4 percent from the field and 40.2 percent from three-point range.

The extension is the first for the Nets' trio of superstars, with new contracts expected to come for James Harden and Kyrie Irving.

Brooklyn are the bookmakers' favourites to win the 2022 NBA title, which would be the first in franchise history for the Nets.

Kevin Durant admitted Team USA were caught with "a nice haymaker" from Australia before clambering to their feet and reaching another Olympic final.

The Americans scored a 97-78 victory at the Saitama Super Arena, putting a fourth successive gold medal at the Games within reach.

But at one stage in the second quarter Durant and co trailed 41-26, with the Australian Boomers making a fast and purposeful start to the semi-final that they could not maintain.

It was at the point the USA side fell 15 points behind that they took a timeout, and from that stage onwards they dominated, Durant leading the team with 23 points and nine rebounds.

Australia shot just 25 of 61 – 41 per cent – from the field, whereas USA managed 38 of 74 and dominated the boards 44-29 in what became a convincing victory.

"We've been down 15 in games before and came back," Durant said. "It doesn't matter what level it was at, or where it's at. A lot of guys have been in that position before. We know how to handle ourselves.

"We kept our composure and we knew that we could get back into the game pretty fast, if we got stops and got out and ran. So we've got to give credit to Australia because they came out and hit us with a nice haymaker, but we were able to get back up and get that lead back."

 

It came as no surprise to Durant that Australia began as they did.

"We knew Australia would come out fast and hit us with a nice punch. We know that teams want to get us down early, see how we respond," said the Brooklyn Nets star.

"A lot of these guys got continuity for years and years, so they know how to play with each other. I feel like a lot of teams are expecting us to fold early.

"We stuck with it, stuck with our principles, made a couple of switches on defence, and we were able to get some momentum going into the half. Guys came out with that intensity, making shots as well."

The 32-year-old Durant is chasing a third gold medal of his Olympic career, having played on the London 2012 and Rio 2016 teams.

For Jrue Holiday, who is coming off an NBA championship-winning season with the Milwaukee Bucks, this is a first Olympic experience.

Like Durant, he saw no need for panic after Australia began Thursday's semi-final so strongly.

By half-time, Australia's lead had been cut to just 45-42, and a 32-10 third quarter for the USA showed their firepower.

"I think we played the game long enough to know that there's always a chance," Holiday said. "So we took that six minutes in the second quarter and kind of ramped it up, and went into half-time in the position that we liked."

Australia have finished fourth in Olympic men's basketball four times, never going further and claiming a medal.

They will have a bronze-medal game to come in Tokyo and must pick themselves up to go again.

Jock Landale scored 11 points against the USA, and the Melbourne United star accepted it was tough for Australia to keep up their early high level.

"It's hard. It's really hard. They're great basketball players, they're smart basketball players," Landale said.

"They figure out what you're doing and they just find ways to exploit it. I think we started turning the ball over in that third quarter and they were just living in transition, and that's tough to beat. They're the most athletic guys in the world, so I think that's probably where we lost them."

Favourite Grant Holloway said nerves got the better of him after finishing second to Jamaica's Hansle Parchment in the men's 110 metres hurdles Olympic final.

The American led at the halfway mark but faded over the final 20 metres as he was beaten by his 31-year-old rival.

Parchment triumphed with a season-best time of 13.04 seconds, ahead of Holloway in 13.09, lucky to scrape ahead of Jamaican Ronald Levy who took bronze with 13.10.

Holloway and Parchment had run in the same heat and semi-final prior to the final, with the American winning both, before falling short in the all-important race.

"I think the anxiousness and the nerves got the better of me towards the end and I got sloppy with my form," Holloway said. "He got me this time but I'll make sure I get him in the next."

He added: "Hats off to Hansle for an amazing race. I was watching him when I was in high school. He's a hell of a competitor. He has an amazing race plan, he executed to the best of his ability."

Parchment admitted he learned from losing to Holloway in the previous two runs.

"I made some changes to my start, because I knew if I was going to catch up, I had to be closer in the first half," Parchment said. "I think I ran through pretty well. I maintained composure. It was a great race."

Portugal's Pedro Pichardo earned gold medal glory with a national record 17.98m in the men's triple jump.

Pichardo's triumphant effort came with his third attempt, while China's Zhu Yaming claimed silver with a personal best of 17.57m. Burkina Faso's Hugues Fabrice Zango took the bronze with 17.47m.

USA's defending champion Ryan Crouser threw an Olympic record 23.30m to win the men's shot put gold.

Crouser bettered the Olympic mark he set five years ago in Rio de Janeiro to win from countryman Joe Kovacs (22.65m), while New Zealand's Tomas Walsh (22.47m) claimed bronze.

EARLY SCARE AS USA REACH FINAL

The United States trailed by 15 points in the second quarter against Australia but rallied to qualify for the men's basketball gold medal match.

USA won 97-78 over Australia, who have never won an Olympic medal in men's basketball having finished fourth four times.

The Boomers had raced to a commanding position early on as Team USA struggled from beyond the arc.

Yet the reigning Olympic champions reduced the margin to three points by half-time and went up several gears with a 32-10 third quarter.

Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant top-scored again with 23 points and nine rebounds, while Devin Booker had 20 points.

USA will face either France or Slovenia in the final as they chase a fourth straight gold medal.

CARRINGTON MAKES NEW ZEALAND HISTORY

New Zealand's Lisa Carrington added a third Tokyo 2020 gold medal to her haul, landing the title in the women's kayak single 500m final.

Carrington claimed her fifth-ever Olympic gold with a strong victory in 1:51.216, from Hungary's Tamara Csipes and Denmark's Emma Jorgensen.

She becomes the first athlete from New Zealand to win five Olympic gold medals, surpassing the four of Ian Ferguson, also in canoe sprint between 1984 and 1988.

Carrington is the fourth woman at Tokyo 2020 to win three gold medals, after Australian swimmers Emma McKeon (four) and Kaylee McKeown (three) and South Korean archer An San (three).

GERMAN ADDS GOLD IN OPEN WATER

After winning bronze in the 1,500m in the pool, Germany's Florian Wellbrock won the men's marathon swimming in open water.

Wellbrock won in one hour, 48 minutes and 33.7 seconds across 10 kilometres, finishing 25.3 seconds ahead of Hungary's Kristof Rasovszky for silver, with Italy's Gregorio Paltrinieri earning bronze.

The size of the German's victory was the biggest margin in Olympic marathon swimming history.

“It’s a little bit unreal," Wellbrock said. "The first seven (kilometres) of this race felt really easy."

AUSSIE SKATEBOARDING WINNER

Keegan Palmer won Australia's first-ever skateboarding gold medal with two amazing runs in the men's park final.

The 18-year-old's first run scored 94.04 before a throwaway second round. Palmer backed it up on his final run with a staggering top score of 95.83.

Brazilian Pedro Barros was next best with 86.14 for silver, while Cory Juneau claimed bronze with 84.13.

The event was the final skateboarding medal opportunity from the sport in its debut Olympics.

Simone Biles provided further inspiration when she returned to action on Tuesday and secured a bronze medal on the balance beam.

China enjoyed success with a Guan Chenchen and Tang Xijing one-two, but the American gymnast stole the headlines on her first appearance back after withdrawing from the team final last week.

Mental health concerns were cited as the reason for Biles stepping away from the team events and other individual disciplines, though the 24-year-old excelled in her sole event on the beam.

The four-time Rio Olympics gold medallist reminded the world of her quality with a 14.000 score, and, despite Chenchen's last-ditch 14.633, she produced an emphatic return for the United States.

"I was just happy to be able to perform, regardless of the outcome," Biles explained after Tuesday's event. "I did it for me, and I was just proud of myself for being able to compete one more time.

"Just to have the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games meant the world, because training for five years and then coming here, then kind of being triggered and not being able to do anything, it wasn't fun.

"To go out there and compete one more time and have everyone's support meant the world."

To add to Biles' memorable comeback, the USA's basketball stars nudged past Spain 95-81 to reach the Olympic semi-finals, with Kevin Durrant netting a team-high 29 points to drive his side towards victory.

It was a far from convincing performance from the USA, however, as they trailed 39-25 at one point in the second quarter before rallying impressively to level at 43-43 at the halfway stage.

THOMPSON-HERAH COMPLETES DOUBLE-DOUBLE

Elaine Thompson-Herah motored to sprinting history as she won the 200 metres women's final to complete the sprint double-double.

The Jamaican set a new national record with 21.53 seconds, the second-fastest time in the history of the event, making herself just the second athlete ever, after Usain Bolt, to win both titles at consecutive Games.

Thompson-Herah, who claimed 100-metre gold on Saturday after doubling up for the first time at Rio 2016, just missed out on Florence Griffith-Joyner's 1988 world record by 0.19s.

"Oh my god, it's amazing that I have ever seen this day. That I could complete another double. I can't believe it," the 29-year-old said after the 200 metres final.

"I really had to pull it out to win the 200m. It's a new PB [personal best] and a national record. I am so, so happy.

"Honestly I am so tired, my legs just need some rest. I've done so many races in the last few days, but I am very grateful."

WARHOLM'S WORLD

Karsten Warholm demolished the world record with a remarkable 400 metres hurdles triumph, smashing the previous record run for a second time in five weeks.

At the start of July in Oslo, Warholm cut 0.08 seconds off Kevin Young's longstanding record that was set at the Barcelona Games in 1992, though the 25-year-old slashed even more off in Tuesday's final.

The Norwegian star powered through in 45.94s, hacking an astounding 0.76s off the global mark to secure a memorable victory.

"It's just so big. It's almost like history here. It was the only thing missing from my collection," the 25-year-old said after his win. "I had a World Championships [gold medal]. I had European Championships, I had the world record, the European record.

"The Olympic gold medal is what everybody talks about. I knew this race was going to be the toughest of my life, but I was ready."

The top three finishers all beat the previous Olympic record, with American silver medallist Rai Benjamin running 46.17, yet the performance of Benjamin's life was simply no match for Warholm.

 

BRAZIL PREPARE TO DEFEND TITLE

Brazil inflicted shoot-out heartbreak on Mexico after a 0-0 stalemate in 120 minutes to set up a final showpiece with Spain.

Reinier converted the crucial spot-kick and, with Eduardo Aguirre and Johan Vasquez missing, the defending Olympic champions ran out 4-1 victors.

"Playing the final match in the Olympics is a dream," said Brazil's head coach Andre Jardine. "The film I saw was the film of life. Everything we’ve gone through. Although we didn’t win in the 90 minutes, we took more risks."

Japan suffered extra-time agony in their semi-final against Spain as Marco Asensio's late winner sunk the host nation to tee up a mouth-watering prospect for Saturday's final.

Despite footballing disappointment, women's boxer Sena Irie provided the host nation reason to celebrate as she edged past the Philippines' 2019 world champion Nesthy Petecio to achieve gold.

Irie's win in the women’s featherweight class final means she is Japan’s first female boxing champion at the Olympics.

CYCLING CHAOS

Germany twice recorded world record rides to earn their first gold – and, in fact, their first ever medal – in the women's team pursuit cycling track event.

A strong Great Britain side, including Laura Kenny, awaited Germany in the final but the team of Mieke Kroeger, Franziska Brausse, Lisa Brennauer and Lisa Klein produced the ride of their lives to finish in 4:06.159, almost two seconds quicker than the previous record.

In a dramatic day of cycling, the reigning world champions Netherlands won their first gold since 1936 in the men's team sprint as Team GB again had to settle for silver inside the velodrome.

That silver for Jason Kenny meant he became the first athlete to win eight Olympic medals in cycling track events and also equalled the total medal haul of Britain's most successful Olympian Sir Bradley Wiggins.

More controversy filled Tuesday's track events, with Denmark's Frederik Madsen crashing into the back of Team GB's Charlie Tanfield inside the closing kilometre of the men's team pursuit heats.

The UCI later deemed the Danes, who were near two seconds ahead of their opponents, to have completed a successful catch to make it through to Thursday's final against Italy, despite the incident.

Kevin Durant said Team USA have "got to finish it" after battling past Spain to reach the Olympic semi-finals.

The Brooklyn Nets star poured in a team-high 29 points as the United States won 95-81 at the Saitama Super Arena, bolstering their gold medal hopes.

It was far from an easy assignment, and nor was it always entirely convincing from the US team, who trailed 39-29 with 3:25 of the second quarter remaining.

They rallied impressively, however, to draw level at 43-43 at the halfway point, and Spain never led again.

"We started making shots there in the second quarter. Once we see that ball going into the rim, that put all of us at ease," Durant said.

"Our defence was a little better, a little tighter, we rebounded better after that. And guys just got more comfortable shooting the basketball.

"We drove it to the rim at the end of that second and were able to get our rhythm back a little bit. I like how we played in that second quarter, from the end of the second quarter all the way to finish the game, and that's how we're gonna need to play going forward.

"It was a huge boost. We didn't want to go into the half down double digits. We knew we didn't want to get down big against this team."

Ricky Rubio plundered 38 points for Spain, with the Minnesota Timberwolves man shooting 13-of-20 from the field. That gave him the highest score by a Spain men's player in an Olympic game, beating the 37 points that Pau Gasol scored against China in 2004.

Rubio also drained four of his seven shots from three-point range, the same as Durant, but USA's 22-6 run at the start of the third quarter took the game away from Spain.

The Spaniards briefly got back to just four points behind, in the early moments of the fourth quarter, yet despite their overall 42-32 dominance on the boards, they were found wanting elsewhere.

USA coach Gregg Popovich said: "I feel great about the victory knowing full well there is a lot of work to be done. We played a terrific basketball team.

"To play that team and go down by nine or 10 and stay in and find a way to win is very satisfying."

Durant feels the team are ready to step up a level, now they are through to the final four.

The pre-Olympics defeats to Australia and Nigeria no longer matter, nor does the loss to France in the Tokyo 2020 group stage.

"I love how we stuck with it throughout this whole period of time and guys started figuring out what we need to do," Durant said.

"You've just got to finish it. We're supposed to be here. For us it's about getting a gold."

Kevin Durant believes Jayson Tatum will eventually claim the Team USA points record he just took from Carmelo Anthony.

In scoring 23 points in the United States' 119-84 win over the Czech Republic – a victory that secured their progression to the quarter-finals at Tokyo 2020 – Durant reached 354 in Olympic play.

He is now past Anthony (336) and will expect to stretch his advantage in pursuit of a third Games gold.

The three-pointer that took Durant to new heights gave Team USA their first lead midway through the second quarter, with the Brooklyn Nets forward leading his country's recovery from a slow start.

Tatum took control thereafter, though, finishing on a game-high 27 points.

The 23-year-old is appearing at his first Games but has 50 points through three appearances, prompting Durant to make a bold claim.

Appearing alongside Tatum in a post-game interview, Durant said: "This guy to the left, I think he's going to be the next one to break that record."

 

Tatum boosted his total with five-for-10 three-point shooting, as the United States made 20 shots from deep – tied for their third-most in an Olympic game.

Coach Gregg Popovich said of Tatum: "Obviously he's more confident but he makes better choices, decision-making wise.

"He attacks for himself and for a team-mate at the same time, and he didn't do that in the very beginning in the league; he was just a scorer.

"But now he's valuable because he does the other things. He's starting to rebound better. We're telling him that it's important, we're not that big and we do need him on the boards."

In the same news conference, Durant was asked again about his achievement in surpassing Anthony.

"You just think about all the players that played in this programme and [it is] pretty cool to be among names like that," he said.

"Carmelo is a guy that I played on two Olympic teams with and I've seen his approach to these games and I try to steal some of his techniques and approach.

"It's still pretty weird for me to do stuff like this because I play a team sport and I try my hardest to make it about the group.

"But it is special to do something like that and scoring is something that I've worked on my whole career and something that I've expanded my whole career, and to consistently do it is pretty cool."

Kevin Durant feels the key to the United States' confidence-boosting win over Iran at the Tokyo Olympics was down to becoming more selfish and playing with freedom.

Team USA's 25-game winning run in the men's basketball at the Games was ended by France last week but they responded with a 120-66 victory against Iran on Wednesday.

That loss to France followed exhibition defeats to Australia and Nigeria in the build-up to the event, leading to questions over the cohesion of the record 15-time gold medallists.

But Gregg Popovich's side answered those critics against Iran with a comprehensive victory in which they played fast, aggressive basketball throughout.

Damian Lillard, one of those to come in for heavy criticism following the opening-game defeat, top-scored with 21 points, all from beyond the arc.

USA knocked down 19 3-pointers and 22 of their 37 shots (62 per cent) inside the arc as they showed signs of the quality that has taken them to three successive gold medals.

Brooklyn Nets forward Durant insists the chemistry of the side was never in question as he highlighted the changes made between matches.

"After a tough loss last game, today we came out with more freedom as individuals and took the shots that we normally like to take," Durant said.

"They went in tonight, and we guarded up, so it was a good step.

"I felt like we were in sync last game, but like I've been saying, it's a make or miss game today.

"We created good shots last game and I think today it's the continuity of what we've been doing over the last week. We finally capitalised on the stuff that we've been working on.

"Like I said, our chemistry has been great since day one. We're all excited to be here, I mean this is the Olympics, this is the national team. 

"But I think we were a bit too unselfish early on and tried not to step on toes. That bit us before.

"Tonight the guys came out there and were super aggressive to look for their shot but also keep everybody involved, and we were able to make some shots. 

"Damian came out, got it scorching for us, so we're going to need that going forward."

 

Head coach Popovich rotated his roster against Iran by bringing in Jrue Holiday and Devin Booker, who were brought off the bench against France.

"In the last game we have to play two 'bigs' and I think that might have clogged it up a bit for us all offensively," Durant added.  

"Defensively we've been solid the whole time, but offensively we were trying to find our rhythm. 

"I played the four [position], so I was able to stretch the floor a bit and give guys space and we were able to get some confidence and knock some shots down."

A victory over the Czech Republic on Saturday will guarantee the world's top-ranked side a place in the quarter-finals.

That next match will also provide Durant with his next opportunity to surpass Carmelo Anthony as USA men's basketball all-time Olympic top scorer.

Durant managed 10 points against Iran, moving him to within five of Antony's record (336).

Team USA star forward Kevin Durant remains bullish about the side's ability to adjust their game in their pursuit of a gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

USA were beaten 83-76 by France in their opening game at the Tokyo Olympics having been beaten by Australia and Nigeria in exhibition games in the lead-up.

The losses have led to criticism of the cohesion of Team USA who are 15-time Olympic gold medalists, but Durant insisted there was no panic ahead of Wednesday's second group game against Iran.

"Our adjustment is we just make more shots," Durant said. "We've got the best talent in the world on the team."

USA led throughout the first half against France before collapsing down the stretch, surrendering a 74-67 advantage.

"We got each other good shots," Durant added. "We know how to play off each other."

USA assistant coach Lloyd Pierce reiterated Durant's calmness about the situation, stating they need to remain confident.

"The keys to beating these guys is just being ourselves, worrying about what we do best," Pierce said.

"We want to get out and play fast and create extra possessions throughout the course of the games.

"It's only 40 minutes, we have to make this game a little bit faster and get as many easy shots as we can.

"We have to be ourselves as well. Our guys have to play with confidence, have to play with the freedom they're used to, they also have to do that together, make simple plays, quick plays and enjoy the experience."

Brooklyn Nets forward Durant provided a positive assessment of the impact of Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and Devin Booker who played against France after competing in the NBA Finals last week.

The trio arrived barely 48 hours before the France game, with Holiday top scoring with 18 points plus four assists from 27 minutes.

Booker shot poorly, with four points and three assists from 18 minutes, while Middleton only had five minutes of game time.

"What they did to me felt like just who they are," Durant said. "I always have a high-level respect for all three of those guys.

"For them to come out and play, not really complain about anything, be excited to be here [full credit]. Those guys are amazing talents, it's great being around them."

Damian Lillard predicted Team USA's stunning defeat to France at the Tokyo Olympics would be portrayed as "the end of the world" but vowed the gold medal was still a target.

The Portland Trail Blazers star was one of a host of under-performing players in blue as Gregg Popovich's team were beaten 83-76 at the Saitama Super Arena.

France's shock win meant the US team's 25-game winning streak in men's basketball at the Olympics came to an end, raising doubts about their ability to challenge for glory at these Games.

Exhibition defeats to Australia and Nigeria ahead of the Olympics getting underway were red flags, but most expected the Americans to find match-winning form once the stakes were raised.

"I think we have a history of dominance and, maybe not always blowing people out, but we have a history of winning," Lillard said.

"It's not often that you see Team USA go out there and lose, especially to start. So, I think that's why a lot of people make it seem like the end of the world.

"But our job as professionals and this team, representing our country in these Olympics, we got to do what's necessary, and we still can accomplish what we came here to accomplish, and we got to make sure we keep that in mind."

 

Evan Fournier of the Boston Celtics starred with 28 points for France.

Fournier began the 2020-21 NBA season with the Orlando Magic and averaged 19.7 points per game, before that figure dropped to 13.0 for his outings with the Celtics following a trade in March.

Here he served up a reminder of how he can perform, and the US opposition suffered.

Lillard, who made just three of his 10 field-goal attempts, said: "You know who we see each night sometimes in the NBA, they are completely different when they play for their countries.

"They got more freedom, and the comfort level is obvious. So we put ourselves in a dogfight, and they made plays to win it."

Kevin Durant called it "a make-or-miss game".

"And we didn't hit the shots that we were supposed to late in the game in the fourth quarter, but I think we will be better next game," Durant, who scored 10 points, added.

There are Group A games to come for the Americans against the Czech Republic and Iran, and those could allow Durant, Lillard and co to find form ahead of the knock-out rounds.

Team USA have won the last three gold medals at the Olympics, and Bam Adebayo, who scored 12 points and had a team-high 10 rebounds, pointed to French desire for a slice of such glory as being a telling factor on Sunday.

"You can definitely tell they're tired of the USA winning," Adebayo said. "Everybody wants that feeling of getting that gold medal. And we can't rely on talent all the time to just bring us home."

The United States will head for Tokyo with back-to-back men's basketball wins after accounting for Spain 83-76 in their final exhibition game in Las Vegas prior to the Olympic Games.

Team USA have had a far-from-ideal Olympics preparation, defeated by Nigeria and Australia in exhibition games last week and losing Kevin Love to injury and Bradley Beal due to health and safety protocols.

Gregg Popovich's side bounced back by beating Argentina on Tuesday and finished off their Las Vegas camp against the Spanish on Sunday.

Damian Lillard top scored with 19 points with six assists for Team USA, while Kevin Durant had 14 points, two assists, two rebounds and two blocks.

Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine pulled off a series of dunks to put an exclamation mark on the performance.

Team USA are set to fly out for Tokyo on Monday, ahead of their Olympics opener against France on Sunday.

USA are grouped with France, Iran and the Czech Republic in men's basketball at the Tokyo Olympics where they are gold medal favourites.

In the women's USA defeated Nigeria 93-62 on Sunday to conclude their Olympic preparations, heading in as gold medal favourites too.

The United States are always favourites at the Olympic Games – and rightly so. In 18 entries to the men's basketball event, Team USA have collected 18 medals, 15 of them gold.

But those three defeats serve as a warning for Gregg Popovich's side.

And any remaining complacency heading to Tokyo 2020 – in pursuit of a fourth straight title – should have been shifted by their initial pre-tournament exhibitions.

The United States lost to Nigeria last Saturday and then to Australia two days later, their third and fourth defeats in exhibitions since first fielding NBA players with the formation of the 'Dream Team' in 1992.

"It was better," as Popovich said, in Tuesday's win over Argentina – "bit by bit, every day, I hope," the coach added – but the pressure is still on, as consistent results must follow when the real action begins.

 

TOUGH START FOR TEAM USA SUPERSTARS

Of course, Team USA have never failed to advance from the preliminary round and that spotless record is highly unlikely to change this year. A kind draw has thrown up only one true test, but it comes first up: against France.

Indeed, Les Bleus dealt the United States their humiliating quarter-final exit at the FIBA Basketball World Cup two years ago.

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert – the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year – put up a game-high 16 rebounds in that France victory and his size is a real problem for familiar opponents.

Gobert led the league with 2.7 blocks and 10.1 defensive rebounds per game in 2020-21, snaring 33.5 per cent of defensive boards while on the floor for the third-best mark in the NBA.

Bam Adebayo and Draymond Green might be versatile but, as the two preferred American options at the five, finding joy in the middle seems unlikely, while Team USA might also struggle to stop 7ft 1in Gobert on defense. His 67.5 per cent shooting was another benchmark.

However, the talent elsewhere in the Team USA lineup should ensure they have enough to win most matchups.

Kevin Durant shot 52.3 per cent from the midrange and 45.0 per cent from beyond the arc in the regular season; only two players made more threes than Damian Lillard (275), who then broke Klay Thompson's record with 12 makes from deep in a single playoff game against the Denver Nuggets.

The opener could either see Durant and Co lay down a marker for the rest of the tournament or provide other contenders with a blueprint for beating the United States.

 

BOOMERS BANG UP FOR MEDAL PURSUIT

Australia are far from the biggest team at the Games, but they have already shown the joy that can be found in the paint against Team USA, scoring 44 points from inside the key in their exhibition win.

The Boomers' effective, well-executed gameplan was all the more impressive given the unsettled nature of their team.

They have changed coach three times since the World Cup, and star name Ben Simmons is absent – working to "develop that skill package and improve in a couple of areas", Brian Goorjian said, after averaging an awful 9.9 points per game in the playoff series defeat to the Atlanta Hawks.

But Philadelphia 76ers team-mate Matisse Thybulle is still on hand to provide defensive energy, having led the NBA in steal percentage (3.9), while Patty Mills remains more reliable at international level than for Popovich's San Antonio Spurs.

Four times beaten in the bronze medal game, Australia will expect to finally secure some hardware, yet Group B also contains a dark horse in the form of Nigeria, who followed up their own victory against the United States by dominating Argentina.

Miami Heat guard Gabe Vincent had 21 points against the country of his birth, a total he has only once topped in his NBA career to date.

Nigeria have chemistry, talent and, in Golden State Warriors associate head coach Mike Brown, coaching experience. They have also played so far like they have a point to prove.

 

DONCIC DRAWN INTO GROUP OF DEATH

Second and third pool games against Iran and the Czech Republic respectively should see that there is no jeopardy for the United States early on, but Group C shows how tough this tournament can be.

There will be a rematch of the 2019 World Cup final between Spain and Argentina, while hosts Japan will hope to make some noise. Then there is Slovenia, led of course by Luka Doncic.

One of the most exciting young talents in the world, Doncic has already shown himself capable of dragging a team to against-the-odds victories single-handedly.

The 22-year-old, whose 36.0 per cent usage rate led the NBA this year, was unsurprisingly named the MVP at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Kaunas just three weeks after forcing the Los Angeles Clippers to go to a Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs.

Doncic has averaged 33.5 points across his 13 career postseason games – all of which have come against the Clippers. No player in NBA history has played 13 playoff games or more and averaged more, with Michael Jordan second on 33.4.

But Doncic has lost both of those series to date and is now faced with some hugely experienced players at this level. Argentina's Luis Scola and Spain's Pau Gasol – who moved to Barcelona specifically to prepare for the Games – are both in their 40s.

Should Doncic guide his country into the knockout stage, though, Team USA would undoubtedly be wary of taking on the two-time All-NBA First Team selection.

Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich is confident his side is getting better after responding to rare back-to-back losses with a 108-80 win over Argentina on Tuesday.

The gold medal favourite's preparations ahead of the Tokyo Olympics were shaken up after consecutive exhibition game defeats to Australia and Nigeria.

But the Americans were much improved 12 days out from their Olympics opener, led by Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal who both had 17 points and six rebounds.

USA led 58-42 at half-time and never looked back, as Bam Adebayo returned to the starting five with good impact.

“I thought we sustained it pretty well in our game against Australia, and we competed well, rebounded, played defense, ran the floor and had good pace for one half, but then it dissipated through the second half,” Popovich said.

“Tonight, I thought we maintained [effort] pretty much throughout the game, so hopefully that's a sign that we are in a little better condition.

"To play these games is huge for us. So, it was better, and it is getting better, bit by bit, every day.”

Popovich also praised Adebayo along with Draymond Green, while Jayson Tatum missed the game with a right knee injury with no timeframe confirmed.

"I thought both Bam and Draymond Green facilitated a lot of action, and they were very active," Popovich said. "They got everybody involved, which is something that's really important for us."

Beal added that the side had learned some important lessons from the Australia and Nigeria defeats.

"The biggest thing we have to realise is that it’s not the NBA, and coach Pop keeps re-emphasizing that to us every single day," Beal said.

"It’s more physical. These guys have been playing together for five, 10-plus years, so they have this experience and chemistry. We're trying to develop that in a short period of time."

USA have further games against Australia and Spain, before departing for Tokyo next Monday with the first Olympics game against France on July 25.

Kevin Durant fired back at Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen's criticism following the Brooklyn Nets' Eastern Conference semi-finals exit in the NBA playoffs.

Chicago Bulls great and six-time NBA champion Pippen gave a blunt assessment of superstar Durant, who was unable to guide the Nets to the Conference Finals.

Durant averaged a career-high 34.3 points, a career-best 9.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists in this season's playoffs, but the second-seeded Nets fell to the Milwaukee Bucks after overtime in Game 7 in the second round.

His 48 points in the series decider were the most scored in a Game 7 in NBA history, but that did not spare him of criticism from Pippen – who referenced Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James.

"He needs to learn how to utilise his teams," Pippen, who played alongside Michael Jordan in Chicago, told GQ. "He has to learn how to set up his team-mates to be better. That's it. As great as he is, there's a [cap] to his [talent].

"He could've easily made that three, killed them in regulation, and we wouldn't have been talking about this. But I knew going into overtime, he wasn't gonna make it. He was taking all the shots. You done played the whole game, bro! And they've got guys physically wearing you down. You gonna lose."

Pippen added: "KD can score better than LeBron, probably always have been able to. But has he surpassed LeBron? Naw. He tried to beat the Milwaukee Bucks instead of utilising his team. You see what I'm saying?

"LeBron James would've figured out how to beat them and he wouldn't have been exhausted and he may not have taken the last shot. But LeBron ain't KD, and KD ain't LeBron. KD is a shooter, a scorer. But he doesn't have what LeBron has."

Durant, who shouldered the load in the Nets-Bucks series as James Harden struggled with a hamstring injury and Kyrie Irving missed time due to an ankle problem, called out Pippen on social media.

A two-time champion, two-time Finals MVP and 2014 NBA MVP, Durant wrote via Twitter: "Didn't the great Scottie Pippen refuse to go in the game for the last second shot because he was in his feelings his coach drew up the play for a better shooter??

"This guy Scott also wanted to enjoy his summer so he chose to rehab during the season lol yo @ScottiePippen THEY FOLLOWED PHIL [JACKSON], NOT YOU!!!"

James Harden has followed Brooklyn Nets team-mate Kevin Durant in committing to play for Team USA at the Tokyo Games, according to reports.

The United States team is taking shape as they prepare to defend their gold medal at the delayed 2021 Olympics.

Reports at the weekend detailed the expectation Durant would join the team after the Nets exited the NBA playoffs.

Durant was on the victorious USA teams in 2012 and 2016 and this year averaged 26.9 points per game in the regular season and 34.3 in the postseason – the 25th-best mark of all time.

The 2014 MVP will not be the only Brooklyn player on the Olympic team, according to The Athletic.

A hamstring injury limited Harden to 36 regular season games for the Nets following his trade from the Houston Rockets, before he played nine times in the playoffs, scoring an underwhelming 20.2 points per game.

Harden went to London in 2012 after his final season as a bench scorer for the Oklahoma City Thunder but not to Brazil four years later having established himself in Houston.

 

Golden State Warriors great Stephen Curry was involved on neither occasion – although he won the World Cup in 2010 and 2014 – and will not make his Olympic bow this year either, the report added.

Curry almost single-handedly carried the undermanned Warriors to the brink of the playoffs this year, taking the NBA scoring title with 32.0 points per game.

Donovan Mitchell, who struggled with an injury as the Utah Jazz lost to the Los Angeles Clippers, has also declined an invite, ESPN revealed.

Bam Adebayo, the Miami Heat center, will join the 12-man roster, though, aiming to bounce back from a playoff sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks in which he scored just nine points on four-of-15 shooting in Game 1.

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