US to fight for fourth consecutive basketball Olympic gold

Kevin Durant's team look to avenge lone defeat at Games during title match against France on Saturday

USA's superstar basketball team recovered from a shaky start to their Tokyo Olympics campaign as they stormed into the final, setting up a title clash with France on Saturday.

Kevin Durant's US thrashed Australia in the semi-final on Thursday and will play for their fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal.

The Americans overcame an early deficit and ran away with the game for a 97-78 triumph. France, on the other hand, needed a blocked shot in the final second to edge Slovenia.

Saturday's gold-medal clash will provide the star-studded US squad a chance to avenge their lone defeat in these Games.

US were poor at the start of the semi-final, racking up fouls that let Australia build a 15-point lead in the second quarter. They rallied in the second half, opening with 12 unanswered points. A barrage of three-pointers and dunks widened the gap to 19 points.

"I've got to give credit to Australia, they came out and hit us with a nice haymaker," said Durant, who in these Games surpassed Carmelo Anthony as Team USA's highest career Olympic scorer.

"We were able to get some momentum going to the half. Guys came out with that intensity, man, we made shots as well," the Brooklyn Nets star said. "I feel like everything aligned for us in that second half, and that's who we are."

France coach Vincent Collet says his team will bring "fire and energy" to the final on Saturday as they target a second straight upset of three-time defending champions.

The French stunned Gregg Popovich's USA in the opening round of group play at Saitama Super Arena 83-76. It was the Americans' first defeat at an Olympics since the 2004 Athens Games and while Collet admits the US have upped their game since, he remains confident.

"I think and I hope we will be ready Saturday," he said, after his seventh-ranked team scrapped past a valiant Slovenia 90-89 in a breathless semi-final, where captain Nicolas Batum made a game-saving block at the buzzer.

"I know Team USA is favoured, but I hope we will play against them with the same fire and the same energy.

"We know what they are capable of. We will play this final with a lot of confidence."

Updated: August 6th 2021, 8:49 AM
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