Basketball: U.S. on top after nervy win over France

Sun Aug 14, 2016 11:56pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The U.S. men's basketball team closed out pool play with an unbeaten record but a nervy 100-97 win over France on Sunday confirmed that getting to the top step of the Olympic podium will not be an easy climb.

"Personally I felt we were going to dominate these games that they were going to come easy," American guard Paul George told reporters. "But you start playing better competition, you see these teams are pretty good."

After a pair of blowout wins over China and Venezuela to open the tournament, the United States have received a wake-up call in the way of narrow three-point wins over France and Serbia and a battling 10-point victory against Australia.

The alarm bells continued to ring on Sunday as the United States allowed France, playing without talismanic point guard Tony Parker, to rally from a 16-point deficit late in the third quarter to turn a predicted rout into another nail-biter.

Despite their troubles, the United States finished top of Group A with a perfect 5-0 record to run their Olympic winning streak to 22 games and remain the favorite to claim what would be a third straight gold on the final day of the Games.

"Today they did not play very well and still won so they are still the favorites," said 7-foot, 1-inch (2.16) French center Rudy Gobert, also known as the 'Stifle Tower'.

The United States will not know their quarter-final opponent until after the final Group B matches on Monday but are well aware that they need to raise their game considerably if they hope to make it to the final.

While the performance has been uneven, Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski remained unconcerned, insisting there is only one statistic that matters and that is the win column, where his team is perfect.   Continued...

2016 Rio Olympics - Basketball - Preliminary - Men's Preliminary Round Group A USA v France - Carioca Arena 1 - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 14/08/2016. Kyrie Irving (USA) of the USA shoots over Rudy Gobert (FRA) of France. REUTERS/Jim Young