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Final: Team USA 98, France 71

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  July 29, 2012 09:25 AM

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The US proves the favorites in more ways than one, getting a huge ovation from the capacity crowd in the final seconds of its opening preliminary-round victory.

France stuck around for a while, trailing just 22-21 after the first quarter.

But behind Kevin Durant (22 points, 9 rebounds), Kevin Love (14 points), and LeBron James (9 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds, plenty of highlights), the US gradually pulled away, playing stifling defense and overcoming some curious officiating to top a talented French team, which got 12 points from Ali Triore and 11 from Tony Parker.

That'll do it from the basketball arena. Be sure to check the Olympics Blog later, when I'll be posting from the Aquatic Centre as Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps, and Missy Franklin are among those competing Sunday night.

3:20, fourth quarter: Travel on Deron Williams. Did Mark Cuban put a hex on him? US leads, 89-64.

5:15: Two minutes after checking in, Davis misses on an alley-oop. He'll get plenty of other chances. Genuinely curious to see how he does playing with the truly elite.

9:25: Anthony Davis is the only player yet to see time for the US. C'mon, Krzyzewski, bring on The Brow!

End of third quarter: Deron Williams, one US player who has looked completely out of sorts, misses a three, but Kevin Love hauls down a one-handed rebounds and plows the ball through the hoop at the buzzer. Remember when this was close? The US is up, 78-51.

1:49, third quarter: LeBron has 9 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and probably six plays that, love him or hate him, remind you why he's the best player in the world. The US leads by 23, 74-51.

5:46: Unstoppable baseline jumper by LeBron off a spin move. Hard not to have a Game 6 flashback after that.

in an unrelated note, France is 1 of 11 from 3-point range.

8:17, third quarter: The US builds it lead to 22, 60-38, thanks to an 8-2 run to start the quarter, highlighted by a Durant three. He may be the only great shooter I've ever seen who looks like his shooting down at the basket.

Halftime: US builds it lead to 16 (52-36) despite some absolutely baffling refereeing. [Insert your favorite Tommy Heinsohn ref-blasting phrase here]. The scoreboard doesn't list individual fouls, but France has 20 attempts from the line, and LeBron in particular has been hit with a couple of calls that are dubious at best. Offensively, Kevin Durant leads the US with 15 points, and while he's just 4 of 8, he's had a ton of open looks. LeBron has been the facilitator, with a game-high six assists. For France, Florent Pietrus leads the way with 8. Maybe he could have hit a few shots for the Celtics in June.

By the way, I'm 99.9 percent sure the in-house announcer here is Coach Willie Maye.

3:20: France and the US are both shooting 38 percent, but the US has 11 more attempts. Not coincidentally, the US has a 29-20 rebounding margin.

4:02: Timeout, France, as a Kevin Durant three puts the US up, 40-28. Durant leads the US with 10 points. Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler are the top rebounders with 7 each. Because the Knicks are such a rebounding force as a team, you know.

4:50: James Harden gets his first action at the 5:32 mark, and in 42 seconds manages to hoist three shots, making one and missing back-to-back threes on the same possession. France does not fear the beard so far.

5:32, second quarter: Mickael Pietrus is not playing for France, but his older brother Florent has four points on 2 of 3 shooting.

6:20, second quarter: The US is trying to take any drama out of this. Kobe hit a pair of free throws and LeBron added a 3, and the lead is nine, 33-24.

LONDON -- Checking in from the overstuffed basketball venue, where LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant and company are opening play against France, which has more than a few recognizable names for hoops fans, among them Tony Parker (wearing protective goggles after getting hit by Chris Brown/Drake/Rihanna love triangle shrapnel), Nic Batum, and Boris Diaw.

Team USA may not match up to its legendary Dream Team forefathers of 20 years ago, but don't tell the international media; the place is so flooded with press that volunteers put many in the stands. So far, they're seeing quite a game -- though perhaps not the one they expected. The US led, 22-21, after the first 10 minutes, shooting just 29 percent from the field. There were plenty of highlights -- LeBron's long bounce pass between two defenders that found Kevin Durant in stride was spectacular even by his standards. But had France not shot just 4 of 9 from the free-throw line, it could have the lead.

One other thing: Mike Krzyzewski used a timeout. That's one more than Chuck Daly used the entire time in Barcelona.

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