LA Clippers forward Nicolas Batum walked away with a life-saving rejection in the dying seconds to preserve a 90-89 victory for France over Slovenia and earn the French a trip to the gold medal game.
Nothing stood between Slovenian guard Klemen Prepelic and rim on a practice that could have resulted in a memorable winning layup. Then Batum came in from behind and repelled his shot.
The block sealed a relentless victory for France over the upstart Slovenians, who reached the semi-finals in their first Olympic appearance in men’s basketball. France will now face the United States, which beat Australia in the semifinals earlier Thursday, for gold at 10:30 p.m. ET on August 6.
Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic recorded the third triple double in Olympic men’s basketball history, posting 16 points, 18 assists and 10 rebounds. It was almost enough to overtake a busy France team.
France were led by Nando De Colo, who scored 25 points. New York Knicks free agent Evan Fournier scored 23 points. Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert scored nine points and took 16 rebounds.
France had built a 10-point lead in the third quarter, but Slovenia fought back, tying the game in the bottom of the fourth on a basket from center Mike Tobey.
A 3-pointer from Brooklyn Nets goalie Timothe Luwawu-Cabbarot gave the French a 90-85 lead with just over a minute to go, but Slovenia fought back behind Prepelic, who scored the next five points.
After an offensive foul call on Fournier, Slovenia had the ball by one with a chance to win the game. The Slovenes attempted a screen-and-roll for Doncic, which was picked up by Gobert. He kicked Prepelic, who passed De Colo but was denied at the rim by Batum.
Batum finished with three points, five rebounds and four blocks in the game.
Slovenia lost for the first time to Doncic in an international game after going 17-0 previously. France will play their first gold medal game since 2000.
NBA.com will have more on this story shortly.