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Lillard Struggles, France Beats Team USA 83-76

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Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard failed to connect on a field goal in the second half of Team USA’s loss to France.

JPN: United States v France Men’s Basketball - Olympics: Day 2 Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

France started the Tokyo Olympics with an upset victory over Team USA. Fueled by Evan Fournier’s 28 points, France completed a shocking 83-76 win on Sunday. For Team USA, Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard failed to connect on a field goal in the second half. He finished with 11 points, three assists, four turnovers and three rebounds.

In the end, France’s size and Fournier’s shooting touch proved to be too much for Team USA in the opening game of group play. Here is a look at a handful of Lillard-centric points from Team USA’s loss.

Catch-and-Shoot Role

Lillard was utilized primarily as a catch-and-shoot floor spacer in the opening frame. Most of the early playmaking duties were assigned Kevin Durant and Bam Adebayo. The focus was to remove Rudy Gobert from the paint, but that forced Lillard into a tertiary role. The Blazers star looked out of rhythm without the ball in his hands and converted just a single bucket during his first shift.

In the second quarter, Lillard operated with more freedom. Unsurprisingly, that frame was his most productive. He was sharp off the dribble from beyond the arc and he connected on a deep three-pointer over Gobert off a switch. Lillard’s work inside the arc was a different story. On two occasions he tried to beat Gobert off the dribble. One possession ended in a turnover. The other, a blocked shot.

Lillard finished with nine points and an assist in the first half.

Matchups

France made it clear that they did not want Lillard to find his rhythm in the second half. They blitzed him on his perimeter looks and forced the ball out of his hands. Individually, former teammate Nic Batum and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot picked up the majority of the defensive assignments against Lillard. On the opposite end of the court, Lillard was tasked with sticking to Batum on most possessions.

Nightmare Stretch

Lillard’s fourth quarter bordered on a disaster. Following a scoreless third quarter, he was far too passive when opportunities finally arrived. In the final minute of the game, Lillard passed up a three-point shot and delivered a sloppy pass that led to a costly turnover. On the next sequence, following a clutch offensive rebound, Fournier connected on a go-ahead three-pointer for France.

The next sequence of note for Lillard also resulted in a turnover. Facing a two-possession deficit, Lillard slipped and fell after receiving a pass from Jrue Holiday. Fournier scooped up the loose ball and was immediately tripped by Lillard. The result: another turnover for Team USA and two free throws for France.

In the final moments of USA’s loss to France, Lillard made it to the free throw line. Thanks to that trip, Lillard notched his only two points of the second half. Lillard committed three turnovers in the second half and connected on zero attempts from the field.

Odds & Ends

  • Watching Draymond Green create opportunities for guards never gets old. They didn’t always result in points, but Green and Lillard linked up on a handful of crisp two-man actions. Green finished the game with four assists.
  • Holiday nearly carried Team USA out of trouble. The Bucks guard hit his stride in the second half and finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
  • Lillard was not the only marquee star to struggle against France. Kevin Durant found himself in early foul trouble and he could not find his rhythm on offense.
  • France utilized a lineup of two massive centers to put Team USA off balance in the third quarter. Vincent Poirier and Gobert feasted in the paint, allowing France to hit its stride. France finished the game ahead in the rebounding battle 42-36.
  • Fournier was an absolute force. In a game that featured an abundance of star power, the Celtics wing stole the show.

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Box Score

Team USA returns to action on Tuesday to face Iran.