With 16 seconds left in the Tokyo Olympics men’s basketball semifinal game and France up 90-89, Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic brought the ball up the court for a final chance to send Slovenia to the gold medal match where the United States waited. Since Doncic’s entered the NBA we’ve seen this scenario countless times, and it usually means we’re in for a dazzling finish by the 22-year-old guard.
But as France sent a double team to Doncic out of a screen, he shoveled off the pass to teammate Klemen Prepelic who attacked the rim and had France’s Nicolas Batum on his hip with what appeared to be a clear path to the rim. However, just when Prepelic thought he had the game-winning bucket, Batum delivered a perfectly-timed block off the glass to end the game and crush Slovenia’s dreams of playing for a gold medal.
It’s a tough blow for Slovenia, who will now face Australia in the bronze medal game. But it was also a tremendous play by Batum, who put his stamp on the game after finishing with four blocks, five rebounds, three points and three assists. The French team was led by newly-signed New York Knicks player Evan Fournier, who fouled out of the game in the final few possessions after putting up 23 points, five rebounds and three assists.
After Fournier fouled out, it appeared as though the momentum shifted in Slovenia’s favor, as Prepelic knocked down a 3-pointer to bring the game to within one point, and a missed shot by France’s Nando De Colo gave Slovenia the chance to win the game.
But Batum had other ideas, and his block preserved a win for a France team that will now face the United States for the second time in this tournament. The first time these two teams faced each other at the start of the Olympics, France delivered a stunner to the Americans, en route to undefeated group play.
The stakes are higher this time around, and Team USA will be heavily motivated by that loss to ensure it doesn’t happen again, but France has been playing like a well-oiled machine throughout the entire tournament. Fournier’s looked like a superstar with France, (19 points per game, 41.7 percent from 3-point territory), and with a roster comprised of five NBA players that also includes All-Star Rudy center Gobert and Batum, France has the second most talent of any team in the Olympics.
We’ll have to see if France can pull off the unthinkable by beating America twice in the same tournament for a gold medal when that game tips off Saturday, August 7 at 10:30 p.m. ET.