TOKYO, July 24 (Reuters) – The United States men’s basketball team will begin their quest for a fourth consecutive Olympic title on Sunday with an intriguing game against a French team led by a man the Americans will know well – Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert.
Led by two-time Olympic champion Kevin Durant, the Americans had a bumpy ride to Tokyo as they were unexpectedly beaten by Nigeria and Australia.
But they made sure they got to the Games in the right frame of mind by beating 2019 World Cup winners Argentina and Spain in their last two exhibition games before flying to Tokyo.
Since 1992, the United States has dominated the Olympics, with the “Dream Team” which included Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, starting a race in which the American men have won six of the next seven Olympic titles.
But the 2-2 record in the preparation in Tokyo has raised questions about whether the United States can continue their Olympic reign.
On Sunday, the Americans will face a team from France which outclassed them in the quarterfinals of the 2019 World Cup, a result that doomed the United States to their worst result in a major international competition.
France also has an NBA pedigree. In addition to center Gobert, three-time defensive player of the year in the league, the French can also count on Boston Celtics forward Evan Fournier and Nicolas Batum of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Also on Sunday, Iran face the Czech Republic, who will make their Olympic debut in the sport, before Germany face Italy. Australia will be in action against Nigeria.
Other countries also compete in men’s basketball in Tokyo, including Argentina, Olympic gold medalist in 2004, Japan, Slovenia and Spain, bronze medalist in 2016.
Omar Mohammed report, edited by Pritha Sarkar
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