SAITAMA, Japan — Kevin Durant has had some wonderful days in his career, but there’s never been one like this green and gold Saturday in Japan.
First there was a new $198 million contract locked in with the Brooklyn Nets. Then the pride of Seat Pleasant, Md., extended his legendary status as one of America’s great Olympians with a masterpiece performance to lead Team USA to its fourth straight gold, 87-82 over France.
Durant’s greatness has been building throughout the Tokyo games, and he poured out his energy in the early going to relieve stress on his teammates. With the confidence, experience and tremendous blend of skills, there was just no way Durant was going to lose as he scored 21 of his 29 points in the first half.
It was the third time Durant has played in a gold medal game and the third time he was fantastic, only deepening his resume.
France, which had beaten Team USA in both the 2019 World Cup and two weeks ago to open the Olympics with dominating fourth quarters, tried it again with a late kick. Trailing by 10 points at the start of the final quarter, they cut it to three points twice including with just 10 seconds to play.
With Durant tiring, there was a window where this could’ve been another bad ending. But this team, which lacked chemistry at times but never depth, had enough to finish the job.
Jayson Tatum, who developed into Team USA’s secondary scorer in a bench role during the tournament, came up with a handful of relief baskets including two crucial 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as the most important of his 19 points. Damian Lillard, who has struggled to impact an impact in Tokyo, delivered two clutch baskets to help keep the lead as well.
Then it was Durant, appropriately, finishing the game off with free throws with eight seconds remaining.
With a big size advantage, France tried to pound the ball inside with big man Rudy Gobert. The Americans were committed to switching pick and rolls as they have all tournament and the French really tried to make it a fatal flaw. Gobert drew nine fouls in the game total but the U.S. played the percentages, as the shaky free throw shooter ended up just 6-of-13 from the line.
Evan Fournier, who has been a thorn in the Americans’ side in the last two losses, scored 16 points but was just 5-of-15 from the line. Jrue Holiday had another great defensive game, coming up with three steals and a block along with 11 points. .Big men Bam Adebayo and Draymond Green also played superior defense.