Portland Trail Blazers fans who tuned into USA Basketball’s first group match against France to watch Damian Lillard are probably kicking themselves for waking up so early on a Saturday for what turned out to be a huge disappointment.
The US lost 83-76, marking the first time they’ve dropped an official game in 25 straight contests. More upsetting than the loss was how the team wound up there. It was a huge concern that the US squad was too used to NBA play, perhaps a little softened by the league’s quick whistles, and that they seemed like five individuals wearing the same uniform, rather than a team during their tune-up games.
Those warning signs have come to fruition. Coach Gregg Popovich and USA Basketball have a lot of work to do if they’re still to come stateside with gold medals in hand.
Damian Lillard, USA Team struggle from the field
It’s clear that this group is inexperienced with FIBA’s more defensive friendly rules. The team combined to shoot 36 percent from the field and a paltry 31 percent from deep on 32 attempts.
Their cold shooting turned completely frigid towards the end of the game, allowing France to mount a 16-2 run to finish the game and finish off the Americans. At one point, USA missed 5 straight jump shots on the same possession with less than a minute to go.
Damian Lillard was USA’s second leading scorer with just 11 points on 3-10 shooting. He only attempted one shot inside the arc, and all of his makes came from deep. He added three rebounds and assists a piece, had a steal, but also committed four turnovers.
Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum experienced similar struggles from the field, combining to go 7-21, shooting 18 percent from three.
Evan Fournier led all scorers, finishing with 28 points for France.
The margin for error has been erased
This loss doesn’t mean that Team USA can’t medal, but it does mean that they can’t afford anymore missteps.
Blame it on the breakneck schedule for the players in the NBA over the last two years, blame it on the softness of the team, or even blame it on Coach Popovich. Regardless, the team has got to pull themselves together.
USA has two games remaining in group play, one against Iran and one against the Czech Republic. They suit up next against Iran on Wednesday, July 28th at 9:40 AM Portland time.
Let’s hope we see a better showing from Damian Lillard and his co-stars in the next two games. The nation is counting on it.