Popovich stresses need for Team USA consistency after France basketball upset in Olympics

Agence France-Presse
Popovich stresses need for Team USA consistency after France basketball upset in Olympics
USA's coach Gregg Popovich talks to his players during a time out in the men's preliminary round group A basketball match between France and USA during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama on July 25, 2021.
Aris Messinis / AFP

SAITAMA – USA coach Gregg Popovich says his star-studded team must discover more consistency if they are to successfully defend their Olympic basketball crown.

The US lineup suffered their first defeat at the Olympic basketball tournament in 17 years on Sunday, slumping to an 83-76 loss to France in their opening game in Saitama.

It followed an unconvincing series of warm-up games in Las Vegas earlier this month, where Popovich's side suffered surprise back-to-back defeats to Australia and Nigeria.

Sunday's loss has raised the possibility that the US reign over Olympic basketball which has included three consecutive gold medals in 2008, 2012 and 2016, could be in jeopardy.

Popovich said the Americans must make an all-round improvement to get their Olympic campaign back on track as they prepare for their game against Iran on Wednesday.

"We need to be more consistent, we led a lot, and we erred on defense, made too many mistakes, had too many sterile possessions and took bad shots," Popovich said.

Popovich also bristled at suggestions that the US defeat could be characterized as an upset, pointing out that the French lineup was spearheaded by NBA stars of the caliber of Evan Fournier and Rudy Gobert.

"France have a great coaching staff, NBA players, other talented players playing in Europe who've been together for a long time," Popovich said. 

"I think that's a little bit of hubris, if you think the Americans are supposed to just roll out the ball and win. You have to work for it, and for those 40 minutes they played better than we did."

"We've got to work for it just like everybody else. When you lose a game, you're not surprised, you're disappointed. I don't understand the word 'surprised', that sort of disses the French team, as if we're supposed to beat them by 30. 

"That's a hell of a team."

Popovich maintained that the US defeat also signaled that the rest of the world was fast catching up to the Americans, who have lost just six of 144 games at the Olympics. 

Since NBA players began completing in the Olympics in 1992, the US have lost just only four of 53 games.

"Basketball is an international sport," Popovich said. "There are very good teams all over the world. People shouldn't be surprised by the French team or Australian team or Lithuanian team. 

"It doesn’t matter who it is. The gap in talent shrinks every year as there are more and more players all over the world. You need to give the French team credit."

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