U.S. men struggle again and barely beat France, 100-97

U.S. men struggle again and barely beat France, 100-97
U.S. guard Kyrie Irving tries to score on a layup against France center Rudy Golbert during their Group A game Sunday. (Andrej Isakovic /AFP / Getty Images)

Kyrie Irving's body was nearly parallel with the floor when he snared the ball. Before hitting the hardwood, he tossed a pass to Kevin Durant, who was streaking to the basket.

Somehow, Irving's pass cleared the rim for a picturesque Durant alley-oop.


"It was perfect," Durant said.

The U.S. also finished preliminary play with a perfect record after downing France, 100-97, on Sunday to advance to 5-0 and a date in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

Sunday was another imperfect game for the U.S. team, which had to sweat out a victory against a third-consecutive opponent. Compounding matters for the U.S. was that one of France's best players, Spurs guard Tony Parker, missed the game as a precaution to rest an ailing toe. Imagine if Parker had played.

For the first time, some players admitted these Olympics were more difficult than they thought.

"I thought personally we were going to dominate these games and they were going to come easy," forward Paul George said. "You start playing the better competition and you see it across the board that these teams are pretty good."

Durant said he thought the U.S. was going to blow out every opponent. At least that was the goal coming into the Games.

"We wanted to strive for greatness," Durant said. "We have to figure out how we're going to be better."

The U.S. did look better for most of the game after one of its most dangerous offensive weapons showed up to play for the first time in five games.

Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson, who was shooting just 15.4% entering Sunday, led all scorers with 30 points. His precise shooting (7 of 13 from 3-point range) helped the U.S. build a 16-point lead toward the end of the third quarter.

That lead was reduced to four before the U.S. made enough plays, Irving's pass to Durant included, to earn the victory.

"The fourth quarter I think we felt like we had the game won," Coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

With every alley-oop in the last three games, every made three-pointer that made the U.S. look unstoppable, there was a careless turnover or a defensive lapse that made it look mortal again. And again, the U.S. did just enough to offset its mistakes.

"This isn't a tournament that we're going to just dominate," George said. "There's talent around this world, and they're showcasing it. These games, we're having spurts of dominating. We're just not finding ways to put a full 40-minute game together."

They have put games together for long enough to get by the first week. Now it's onto the knockout round — with the U.S. knowing someone could actually knock them out.


"Everyone wants us to win by a lot of points, but that's not going to happen this time," Durant said.

At this point, the U.S. is happy just to win.

Twitter @ChristopherHine