Gobert, Doncic Battle To Final Possession In Olympic Semifinal
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Rudy Gobert and the French National Team will face Team USA in the gold medal game after knocking off Luka Doncic and Slovenia 90-89 in the Olympic semifinal.
Los Angeles Clippers forward Nicolas Batum blocked Klemen Prepelic’s lay-up attempt at the buzzer to preserve the narrow lead and guarantee the French no worse than the silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
Gobert scored nine points, grabbed 16 rebounds, and blocked four shots but missed two crucial free throws in the final two minutes that could have proved costly had it not been for Batum’s heroics. However, Gobert made up for the error on the final possession by forcing the ball of out of the hands of Doncic hands to set up the game-saving block.
“I tried to do everything that I could to try to make sure that Luka didn’t shoot his step-back, but when he passed the ball there was nothing I could do,” Gobert told KSL Sports Jeremiah Jensen of defending Doncic on the final possession. “Nico did an amazing play, and it just shows who we are as a group.”
France led by double-digits early with just 1:35 left to play in the third quarter, but Slovenia made up the difference in the fourth quarter thanks to Doncic’s playmaking and Mike Tobey’s rebounding.
Tobey snared five offensive rebounds while Doncic recorded the triple-double in Olympic history, scoring 16 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, and handing out a remarkable 18 assists.
The 22-year-old superstar struggled to score against Gobert and the French defense connecting on just 5-18 field goal attempts from the floor and 2-9 from three in the guard’s first loss in 18 outings with the Slovenian National Team.
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France had a chance to take control of the game leading by four with less than 40 seconds to play but New York Knicks guard Evan Fournier committed an offensive foul which led to to a Prepelic three, cutting the Slovenia deficit to just one with 33 seconds left to play.
Nando De Colo scored 25 points to lead France while Fournier chipped in 23 before fouling out, but ultimately, it was the French National Team’s defense that prevailed to set up a rematch with Team USA on Friday night.
Team USA fell to France 83-76 in the opening game of group play, though Gobert said that won’t have any bearing on the Olympic final.
“We know that they are the best team in the tournament. We know that they’re not the same team that we played early in the tournament either.”
France has never won a gold medal in the Men’s Olympic Basketball Tournament but took home silver in the 1948 games in London, and the 2000 games in Sydney.
Slovenia and Australia will battle for the Bronze medal on Saturday morning as both teams look to make history for their countries.
Australia has never medaled at the Olympics despite 15 trips to the games, while Slovenia had never qualified for the basketball tournament prior to Tokyo.
Joe Ingles and Australia fell to Team USA 97-78 to find themselves in the bronze medal game for the second consecutive Olympics.