Two losses in exhibition matches prior to the loss against France was not the kind of title defense the Americans were looking for. However, since their 83-76 defeat to Evan Fournier and Co., Team USA have been on a mission to disprove their critics and restore order on basketball's international stage.
A dominant second-half display against Australia was enough to see the Americans into the final, where they will face a French team that had to dig deep to beat Slovenia in their semi-final. There will be plenty of NBA stars on display and plenty of pressure on the US to perform and take away the gold medal, which could leave the door open for the underdogs.
Fixture - USA vs France | Olympics 2021 Men's Basketball.
Date & Time - Friday, August 6th, 10:30 PM ET (Saturday, August 7th, 8:00 AM IST).
Venue - Saitama Super Arena, Saitama, Japan.
Team USA Preview
It only took one game for Team USA to realise their faults and return to asserting their dominance on the international stage. After losing to France, the Americans breezed past both Iran and the Czech Republic, racking up over 118 points in each matchup.
They then outlasted Spain in the quarters, their closest competitors for the gold medal according to FIBA's world rankings, and Australia in the semi-final.
Aside from their array of scoring prowess, the USA have stifled their opposition on defense. Kevin Durant and Jrue Holiday are the team's most prominent perimeter defenders, while Draymond Green and Bam Adebayo have been able to prove their versatility on that side of the ball.
Against France in their group stage game, the US players looked devoid of ideas on offense and allowed their heads to drop when the three-ball wasn't falling. Since then, they have raised their tournament average from deep to 41% (best overall) and have looked to Durant and Holiday to take over when needed.
Against Australia in the semi-final, the two NBA champions inspired their teammates with a 32-10 third quarter which allowed the former to sit out the entirety of the final period.
Team News: USA
USA were able to avoid any injuries prior to their final contest of the Tokyo Olympics and will likely stick to the same starting five that have taken the floor in the previous four games.
Kevin Durant has led his teammates throughout the tournament and is now Team USA's all-time leading scorer after surpassing the previous record holder, Carmelo Anthony, in their group stage win over the Czech Republic.
KD has continued his excellent shooting form from the playoffs, with splits of 54-39-91, and has averaged an efficient 19 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists per 26 minutes played.
He will be joined in the frontcourt by Jrue Holiday, who has shot at 44% from deep and grabbed 1.4 steals per game, and Bam Adebayo. The Miami Heat center will have his hands full in this matchup as the French have grabbed the second-most rebounds of any team this summer.
In the backcourt are sharpshooters Damian Lillard and Devin Booker, who have averaged over 10.5 points each. Booker has also grabbed the most steals of any US player, 1.6 per game, and is almost in the 50-40-90 club for his shooting.
USA Predicted Lineup
Point Guard - Damian Lillard l Shooting Guard - Devin Booker l Small Forward - Jrue Holiday l Power Forward - Kevin Durant l Center - Bam Adebayo
Despite an admirable performance from Slovenia throughout these Olympic games, France booked their place in the gold medal matchup after a dramatic late block from LA Clippers swingman Nicolas Batum.
France are the only team to have gone undefeated in the tournament and have shown themselves to be a well-balanced outfit. They had big-time performances from Evan Fournier, who tormented USA in their first fixture.
Nando de Colo, who had a game-high 25 points against Slovenia, and Rudy Gobert, who has the fourth-most rebounds per contest and the team's best efficiency, have also been key to France's run.
Team News: France
Akin to their opponents, France will likely remain unchanged for the final. Their team is spearheaded by three NBA stars in Fournier, Gobert and Batum. Brooklyn Nets forward Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot has provided some valuable points off the bench, including his clutch three against Slovenia late in the fourth quarter.
Joining Fournier in the side's backcourt is the highly-decorated EuroLeague star Nando de Colo.
De Colo, 34, displayed his elite all-round ability against the Slovenians, putting up a game-high 25 points along with seven rebounds and five assists. He has shot the three-ball at 47% throughout the tournament and is France's second-top scorer behind Fournier.
Completing the French lineup will be former Boston Celtics power forward Guerschon Yabusele, who has averaged five points and 3.6 rebounds so far.
France Predicted Lineup
Point Guard - Nando de Colo l Shooting Guard - Evan Fournier l Small Forward - Nicolas Batum l Power Forward - Guerschon Yabusele l Center - Rudy Gobert
USA vs France Match Prediction
It all comes down to this. Almost a fortnight of thrilling Olympic basketball ends as it began for Team USA and France. Although the French were able to stifle the Americans the first time around, Jrue Holiday and Devin Booker had barely stepped off the plane in Tokyo and have since established themselves in coach Popovich's starting lineup.
If France are going to take home their first-ever men's basketball gold medal, they will have to rely on their superior rebounding and tenacious defense. They have NBA stars who know how to play against the USA's talent but are going to have to go above and beyond to come away with another win against the Americans.
Although it wouldn't be surprising to see an upset, the likelihood is that USA will win their fourth straight basketball gold medal.
Where to watch USA vs France
NBC has been broadcasting the Olympic coverage in the U.S. The network has shown all of Team USA's games and the final can be viewed on any of its streaming platforms, including Peacock, or on national television.
Eurosport has shown the majority of Olympic basketball in Europe, with French fans able to get a subscription to the service to watch their team fight for the gold.