U.S., France advance to men's basketball gold-medal game
Australia and Slovenia to play for bronze
Kevin Durant and the Americans still have their grip on gold and it's going to take more than a few bad minutes for anyone to take it away from them.
They were awful early, then awesome afterward against Australia.
Durant scored 23 points, Devin Booker had 20 and the U.S. blew past and eventually blew away the Aussies 97-78 on Thursday in the Olympic men's basketball semifinals after falling into a 15-point hole.
With their gold-medal streak looking in jeopardy midway through the second quarter, the Americans overwhelmed the Australians with a 48-14 stretch that gave them a 74-55 lead after three periods.
The U.S. missed its first 10 3-point attempts and didn't hit one until late in the second quarter, then it felt as if the Americans hardly missed again, with Booker making three 3-pointers.
Jrue Holiday had 11 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the U.S., which will play European champion Slovenia or France for a fourth straight gold medal Saturday. The French beat the Americans 83-76 in their Olympic opener.
That was part of a 2-3 start to the summer for the U.S., which included a loss to the Australians in an exhibition game in Las Vegas.
The Americans don't look like that team anymore.
WATCH | Durant, Booker lead U.S. into gold-medal game:
They look like the best team in the world, like those that used to win gold with ease.
Patty Mills scored 15 points for Australia, which still needs a win for its first Olympic basketball medal.
France narrowly defeats Slovenia
Later Thursday, with the game and a chance for gold on the line, Slovenia's Klemen Prepelic thought he had a layup that would have given his team the win over France.
France's Nicolas Batum thought differently.
Batum reached over Prepelic to block the layup try with 2.4 seconds left, the last play in what became France's 90-89 win over Slovenia in the men's basketball semifinals at the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday night — overcoming a historic night from Luka Doncic.
WATCH | Batum's last-second block sends France to gold medal game:
Doncic had the third triple-double in Olympic men's history: 16 points, 10 rebounds and 18 assists. But it wasn't quite enough, and Slovenia fell to 17-1 all-time when he's in the national team colours.
He may be good as gold one day, but not yet. France will play the United States on Saturday (11:30 a.m. local time in Japan, 10:30 p.m. Friday ET) to decide the gold medal at the Tokyo Games. France has been this far at an Olympics only once — losing to the Americans in the title game at the 2000 Sydney Games.
They've won the last two meetings with the U.S., first in the quarter-finals at the Basketball World Cup in 2019, then in open group play in Tokyo.
Nando de Colo had 25 points for France, Evan Fournier scored 23 and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot added 15 for the winners — now the last unbeaten team left in the men's tournament at 5-0. Rudy Gobert had nine points, 16 rebounds and four blocks for France, and Batum blocked four shots as well, none bigger than the one at the end.
Mike Tobey scored 23 for Slovenia, which got 17 from Prepelic.
France trailed by eight in the first half, then went up by 10 late in the third — before needing to survive a wild fourth quarter. Slovenia tied it twice in the final quarter, both times on baskets inside by Tobey, but never took the lead.
Luwawu-Cabarrot took a kickout pass from Gobert with 56.1 seconds left and made a wide-open three-pointer to put France up 90-85. A free throw got Slovenia within four, then Fournier fouled out on an offensive foul while dribbling upcourt on the next France possession.
Slovenia had life.
Prepelic took a pass from Doncic on the ensuing possession and hit a three-pointer to get Slovenia within one. And then it came down to the last shot, which Batum knocked away as Slovenia argued for a foul to no avail.
Doncic had flirted with triple-doubles twice already at these Olympics, finally getting this one on a rebound that set up the final Slovenia possession. The other triple-doubles in Olympic men's play: Alexander Belov had one for the Soviet Union in 1976, and LeBron James had one for the U.S. in 2012.
WATCH | While You Were Sleeping — Damian Warner wins gold, more medals for Canada: