How to watch the men’s basketball game for the gold medal
TOKYO – The men’s basketball tournament at the Tokyo Olympics comes to a close on Saturday with a gold medal game between the United States and France in the morning (Friday night in the United States) and a game for third place between Australia and Slovenia later in the day.
The Americans, who have won three consecutive gold medals in the event dating back to 2008, have abandoned their tournament opener against France, raising questions about the team’s preparation for the Games. It didn’t help that they had several shaky performances, including two losses, in a series of warm-up matches before heading to Tokyo.
But they have improved with every game since. The question is whether they have improved enough, in this short period of time, to secure the championship.
How to watch
The gold medal game airs on NBC Friday at 10:30 p.m. EST. The bronze medal game will air on USA Network at 7 a.m. Saturday.
Despite their loss in the first game, the Americans are still favorites to win their 16th gold in men’s basketball.
Much of their recent boost in confidence has been the play of Kevin Durant, who became the nation’s career top scorer at the Olympics during the tournament and appeared dominant in the team’s last two games. After scoring just 10 points in the loss to France, he leads the team with 19.0 points per game. Jayson Tatum, coming off the bench, added 14.4 points per game, while Jrue Holliday added 12.0.
For all the Americans’ prowess, it will be the defense of their team that could make the difference. France, like virtually every other team the United States has faced, have tried to use their size and strength to intimidate smaller American formations. Bouncing on both sides of the ball will be crucial.
The France team – whose best men’s basketball results are silver medals in 1948 and 2000 – narrowly slipped into the championship game with a 90-89 victory over Slovenia, requiring a block Nicolas Batum’s last second on Klemen Prepelic’s lay-up attempt to seal the result.
Rudy Gobert, the seven-foot-one center, was a vital presence for France in painting. He finished with nine points, 16 rebounds and four blocks in the game against Slovenia, and the Frenchman will certainly be looking to establish his presence early and often in the title game.
Evan Fournier, who signed with the Knicks this week, exploded for 28 points against the United States in the teams’ first meeting. The American players then praised the offensive execution of the France team, which results in part from many years of continuity in the program. In a sense, the game pits the well-trained French against the extremely talented Americans.
Playing for bronze
Australia come into the match for third place after losing 97-78 to the United States in the semifinals. Slovenia dominated Germany, 94-70, in the quarterfinals, before losing to France.
The main draw for casual fans will be the chance to see Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic get back to work in what has been a glittering Olympic debut. He recorded just the third Olympic triple-double in history – and the first since LeBron James in 2012 – with a performance of 16 points, 10 rebounds and 18 assists against France.
And Doncic’s 48 points in Slovenia’s group stage match against Argentina are tied for the second-highest total in Olympic history. (Oscar Schmidt of Brazil scored 55 in a game in 1988.)