The men’s USA Basketball squad lost its first game of the Olympics to France on Sunday morning, with the Americans going ice cold offensively down the stretch, failing to do much of anything that resembled a coherent offense while France never wavered, led by Evan Fournier who finished with 28 points and hit the go-ahead three for France down the stretch.
It wasn’t a shocking loss given what we had seen out of the Americans in their exhibition games in Las Vegas, but to see a team filled with offensive stars failing to score a bucket over the last 3:40 of the game is still rather stunning and frustrating to watch. After the game, Fournier summed up the issues Team USA has going forward in these Olympics with a succinct answer about them being more a collection of great individuals rather than a team with a cohesive identity.
France's Evan Fournier after beating USA Basketball in Tokyo Olympic opener: "They are better individually but they can be beaten as a team."
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) July 25, 2021
This was, similarly, the talking point in 2004 when Team USA stumbled to a bronze medal. USA Basketball will always be that to an extent, but when they don’t put their best possible team on the floor, the gap just isn’t as wide as it once was and the flaws of the system are laid bare. The Americans who make the Olympic team don’t play qualifiers together and don’t even play in the World Cup together, which leads to a two-week stretch prior to the Olympics for them to figure it all out. They typically have the talent to make that work, but this year, with a team that seemed to be constructed more with taking whatever big names would accept an offer more than with a coherent structure in mind, the margin for error was more narrow and things just have not come together.
The results thus far have shown us what this team is which is a good collection of players, but one with real flaws particularly late in games. Whether they figure it out in short order will determine if we look back on this loss to France as the thing that woke them up or as the harbinger of things to come.