Panic? You won’t find any in Team USA’s Damian Lillard—not even after the U.S. men's basketball team’s late collapse to France on Sunday in their opening game at the Tokyo Olympics. It was the first American men’s basketball loss at the Olympics since 2004 and only the sixth in the history of the tournament.
"A lot of people will make it seem like the end of the world, but our job as professionals representing our country at the Olympics is to do what's necessary,” said the Portland Trail Blazers star. “We still can accomplish what we came here to accomplish."
The Americans, in pursuit of their fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal, gave up a late lead to the French en route to a 83-76 loss. The U.S. Team also lost Olympic tune-up games to Nigeria and Australia earlier this month. Next up for the Americans: Iran.
"I think we have a history of dominance and maybe not always blowing people out, but we have a history of winning. And it's not that often that you see Team USA go out there and lose, especially to start," Lillard told ESPN.
The Americans got out to a good start in the first half, leading 45-37 at the break on the back of their defensive energy, but were outscored 25-11 in a disastrous third quarter. Kevin Durant was saddled with foul trouble early and found it hard to find his rhythm before fouling out near the end of the game.
U.S. head coach Gregg Popovich said his team lost “because of a lack of consistent defense, too many errors on offense, possessions where we didn’t move and took ill-advised shots."
Lillard said the team needed to relax and just be themselves.
"We're just trying too hard to do the right thing instead of being who we are - the best players in the NBA," he said.