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After a Shaky Start, Another Gold for Men's Basketball

Kevin Durant helps lead Team USA to 87-82 win over France, team's 4th straight Olympic win
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 7, 2021 5:30 AM CDT
Team USA Clinches 4th Olympic Gold in a Row for Basketball
United States' Kevin Durant (7) celebrates after Team USA's win in the men's basketball gold medal game against France at the 2020 Summer Olympics on Saturday in Saitama, Japan.   (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

(Newser) – Nothing about the summer was easy for the US men's basketball team, and neither was the gold-medal game. The Americans expected nothing less. And in the end, their Olympic reign lives on. Kevin Durant scored 29 points and joined Carmelo Anthony as the only three-time men's gold medalists in Olympic history, and the US held off France 87-82 on Saturday to win the title at the Tokyo Games—ending a summer that started with sputters but closed with celebration, per the AP. Durant sealed the win with two free throws with 8.8 seconds left, making the outcome academic. The lead was 5 points, France's final possession was irrelevant, and it was over. The US players gathered for a hug at midcourt; Durant, Draymond Green, and Bam Adebayo wrapped themselves in American flags; coach Gregg Popovich had a long hug with his assistants; and the journey was complete.

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This US team was one that seemed vulnerable when the summer started, with losses in its first two exhibitions. The team also lost Bradley Beal to virus-related issues before the Games began, and lost its last two games against France. Didn't matter: Olympic champions, again. For Popovich, it completes an Olympic journey that started a half-century ago. He was playing for the US Air Force Academy, tried unsuccessfully to make the 1972 US Olympic team, then accepted the task of replacing Mike Krzyzewski as the US coach for this Olympic cycle. "Every championship is special, and the group you're with is special, but I can be honest and say this is the most responsibility I've ever felt," said Popovich, who adds this gold to five NBA titles he's won as coach in San Antonio. "You're playing for so many people that are watching, and for a country, and other countries involved." Green summed it up as such: "Everybody was questioning us. This is special."

(Read more 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games stories.)

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