Team USA head basketball coach Gregg Popovich spoke with the media after the Americans, 83-76, opening group play loss to France in the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
“When you lose a game you’re not surprised, you’re disappointed. I don’t understand the word surprise – that sort of disses the French team, so to speak, as if we were supposed to beat them by 30 or something,” Popovich said.
Team USA had an eight point lead with four minutes left in the game, but the French team mounted a 16-2 run, highlighted by leading scorer Evan Fournier’s go-ahead three-pointer with less than a minute left to seal the win. The loss snaps a 25-game win streak dating back to the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, when Team USA lost to Argentina.
“We have to be more consistent. We had two nine-point leads and one 10-point lead, and then an eight-point lead at the end of the game, and we gave all of those up because of lack of consistent defense, too many errors,” Popovich added. “We had, on offense, dry possessions where we didn’t move and took ill-advised shots. So you understand it, you look at it, and you go to work and you try to get better.”
Despite pulling off the upset victory, the French team is not celebrating yet. French center Rudy Gobert said after the victory, “I mean it’s great, but, until we have what we want to have around our neck, it doesn’t really matter.”
Fournier, who scored a game-high 28 points, expressed a similar sentiment saying, it is a big win for us obviously, but we have to move on and show people back home that these guys can be beaten. With the right coach, the right mentality, the right work, you can compete against anyone, and it is not because we are a small country we should have any complexes. We are just as big as anyone you just have to believe.”
Both teams return to the court on Wednesday with Team USA scheduled to play Iran, while the French team faces off against the Czech Republic.