USA Men Set To Take On France In Olympic Opener
With a total of 12 practices now behind them, and compiling a 5-0 record during its challenging exhibition tour, which saw the U.S. post an average margin of victory of 26.6 points a game in wins over the Dominican Republic (113-59), Brazil (80-69), Great Britain (118-78), Argentina (86-80) and Spain (100-78), the USA men Thursday arrived in London.
For the Americans, defending Olympic champs, additional preparation will remain a focus of the USA coaching staff, and with limited practices sessions available, improvement through games is a necessity.
“I think we’ve gotten better. I think we need to use pool play first of all to qualify for medal play but also I think to get five more international games under our belt. I thought we reacted better tonight than two nights ago to the international game and we have to keep learning about it,” stated USA mentor Mike Krzyzewski (Duke University).
Placed in Pool A for Olympic preliminary round play along with Argentina, France, Lithuania, Nigeria and Tunisia, the U.S. men open Olympic action on July 29 facing France in a 2:30 p.m. (London local time) game. Preliminary round play for the Americans continues July 31 versus Tunisia (10:15 p.m.); Aug. 2 versus Nigeria (10:15 p.m.); Aug. 4 versus Lithuania (2:30 p.m.) and concludes Aug. 6 versus Argentina (10:15 p.m.). Olympic quarterfinal play is scheduled for Aug. 8, semfinals are Aug. 10 and finals are being played on Aug. 12.
The USA's opening game opponent, France, is making its first Olympic appearance since 2000 when it challenged the USA in the gold medal game before falling 85-75.
After not qualifying for the Olympic Games in 2008 or 2004, France hopes to repeat the success enjoyed in its last Olympic appearance when they won silver at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. France went 6-4 in Olympic preparation games 2012.
Qualifying: France qualified for the 2012 Olympics with a second-place finish at 2011 EuroBasket, falling to Spain in the gold medal game. NBA All-Star Tony Parker averaged 22.1 points and 4.4 assists per game to lead the 2011 French squad to its best finish at EuroBasket since also coming in second in 1949.
Connections: Five players on the court today clashed in the 2012 NBA Western Conference Finals; Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook helped the Oklahoma City Thunder defeat Boris Diaw and Parker of the San Antonio Spurs in six games. Nando De Colo will join the Spurs for the 2012-13 season ... Ronny Turiaf was teammates with LeBron James on the 2012 NBA Champion Miami Heat, and Turiaf also has been teammates with Kobe Bryant (L.A. Lakers, 2005-08) and Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks, 2011) ... Diaw and Tyson Chandler were teammates with the Charlotte Bobcats for the 2009-10 season ... Mickael Gelabale was teammates with Durant on the 2007-08 Seattle SuperSonics ... and Yakhouba Diawara teamed with Anthony on the Denver Nuggets from 2006-08.
Series: The USA is 4-0 all-time against France in Olympic competition, including 2-0 in gold medal games. The U.S. defeated France twice in 2000, beating them 106-94 in pool play, then 85-75 in the gold medal game. The USA’s 106-94 preliminary victory featured one of the most memorable plays in USA Basketball history as Vince Carter dunked over France’s 7-foot-2 center Frederic Weis. In Los Angeles in 1984, the USA nearly doubled France’s score in a 120-62 pool play victory. The last time the Olympics were in London, the U.S. defeated France 65-21 in the gold medal game in 1948.
Last Meeting: USA 85, France 75 In their most recent meeting in 2000, these two teams met in the gold medal game at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. The Americans, behind 13 points apiece from Ray Allen and Vince Carter, led the entire game. Despite opening up a 14-point lead early, the U.S. was unable to put France away as they rallied to within four at 76-72 with 4:26 to play, before the U.S. once again reasserted itself and pulled away for the 85-75 victory.