Tokyo Olympics 2021: 5 Key takeaways from Team USA's opening loss versus France

Team USA lost their opening game of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics
Team USA lost their opening game of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics

Team USA suffered a shock defeat in their opening game of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics basketball tournament as they fell to France 83-76.

The loss was America's first in an Olympic matchup since 2004 and snapped a 24-game winning streak. More worrying for fans, however, was the fact that their stars looked devoid of confidence or chemistry on both sides of the ball. They scored just 11 third-quarter points and were outscored 16-2 in the closing minutes of the game.

Chemistry and team bonding have often been a disadvantage to Team USA, who change up their roster with every Olympics. Nevertheless, their squad is packed with All-Star players and championship experience and they have some of the greatest scorers to ever play the game. So they should have been able to come away from their opening fixture with a win.

This article will run down five key takeaways from Team USA's opening loss to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and what they need to improve on if they are to return to winning ways.

Five Key takeaways as Team USA are embarrassed by France in opening loss of 2021 Tokyo Olympics

#1 Team USA's dismal shooting accuracy

Team USA shot the ball extremely poorly on Sunday
Team USA shot the ball extremely poorly on Sunday

Besides Team USA's lack of rhythm on offense and their troubles in the paint, which we will come onto, the game was lost simply by their poor shooting. A perfect example of this came late in the fourth quarter when the Americans missed four straight open looks, the last of which came while a French player was on the floor hurt.

As a team, the USA shot at 36% from the field and 31% from beyond the arc. Although their leader, Kevin Durant, connected with three of six treys attempted, he made just 33% of his total field goal efforts. As did Jayson Tatum. Meanwhile, Damian Lillard fared even worse, making 30% of his total attempts, shooting nine of his ten shots from downtown.

Also Check out: USA Men's Olympic Basketball Coaches

Jrue Holiday provided some respite, scoring 18 points, though almost a third of his points came from the free-throw line. Team USA will continue to get open looks with their superior ball movement. However, against the better nations in this tournament, they cannot afford to shoot as poorly as they did on Sunday.

#2 Evan Fournier should be in high demand in free agency

Evan Fournier led France with 28 points
Evan Fournier led France with 28 points

In eight days' time, Boston Celtics guard Evan Fournier will be an unrestricted free agent. Moving to the C's midseason, Fournier continued his scoring form, shooting at 46% from downtown and finished the season having averaged 17 points per game for both the Orlando Magic and the Celtics.

The 28-year-old sent out a reminder to any NBA team in the market looking for a mid-priced consistent scoring option in Sunday's game. Fournier led all scorers in France's win over Team USA with 28 points. He connected with 50% of field-goal attempts and made four threes.

Alongside Nando de Colo, Fournier was the French side's sparkplug on offense and led the team in their third quarter showcase when they outscored their opponents 25-11. With just over a minute to go in the contest, he hit a dagger three that put France up by two points and swung the momentum in their favor.

Also Check out: USA Olympic Basketball Team 2021

#3 America's lack of rhythm on offense

<a href='' target='_blank' rel='noopener noreferrer'>Kevin Durant</a> was unable to lead Team USA to victory
Kevin Durant was unable to lead Team USA to victory

Although they started the game on the front foot, Team USA's second-half performance on offense was stagnant and lacked the kind of rhythm you would expect from a side full of All-Star players.

Coach Popovich could be heard in the team's huddle urging his players to move without the ball and create open looks for themselves. However, the Americans made it easy for the French to defend them down the stretch. Damian Lillard and Kevin Durant both made crucial mistakes in the dying embers of the game that led to French possession, while the players' decision to play hero-ball instead of driving the lane for two points was confusing.

#4 Team USA's troubles in the paint

Team USA struggled to deal with France in the paint
Team USA struggled to deal with France in the paint

There was a lot of discussion prior to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics surrounding Team USA's potential troubles in the paint. JaVale McGee was added to the squad when Kevin Love had to pull out due to injury as an additional rim protector, however he played just shy of two minutes in this encounter.

While center Bam Adebayo had a solid game, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, the U.S. was dominated in the paint at times. The French secured six more boards than their opponents, allowed four fewer points in the paint and scored nine more second-chance points. Although it may not seem like a lot, all of these stats add up in a format where games are traditionally lower scoring.

In the third quarter in particular, Team USA struggled to deal with the French's size with both Rudy Gobert and Vincent Poirier on the floor or the 7'2" Moustapha Fall. They either need to find a way to resolve this issue via a small-ball lineup or trial a bigger lineup.

#5 Jrue Holiday is a machine

Jrue Holiday just won the NBA championship on Tuesday
Jrue Holiday just won the NBA championship on Tuesday

If it wasn't already clear after his NBA Finals performances, Jrue Holiday is a machine. The Milwaukee Bucks guard was influential in the franchise's first title win since 1971 and wasted no time in settling in with Team USA.

Just 48 hours after celebrating with his teammates in Milwaukee during the championship parade, Holiday had landed in Tokyo and was ready to play. On Sunday, he was the only U.S. player in the fourth quarter who looked like they could rescue the game, scoring 12 points and finishing as the side's highest scorer with 18. Along with his much-needed contribution on the score board, the 31-year-old also grabbed seven rebounds and dished out four assists.

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Edited by Arnav Kholkar
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