Americans were not satisfied with anything less.
Their Olympic reign continues to live on at the end.
Kevin Durant was 29th in scoring and joins Carmelo Anthony as the only two-time Olympic gold medalists for men. The U.S. beat France 87-82 to win the title at Tokyo Games. It ended a summer filled with celebrations and sputters.
"Every championship is unique, and the group that you're with, but I can honestly say this is my greatest responsibility," stated Gregg Popovich (U.S. coach), who added this gold to the five NBA titles he won in San Antonio. "You are playing for many people, including for the country and other countries. It was an incredible responsibility. It was something I felt every day for many years. It's a feeling that I feel quite light and I look forward to returning to the hotel.
Wine was waiting, and there was also a hero's reception from the U.S. Women's Team -- which plays for gold on Sunday -- when the men returned home to their hotel. Popovich and his team returned to the arena on Saturday night after Australia beat Slovenia for bronze. The prize would be draped over the neck of one player, and then the U.S. flag was raised. Then they heard "The Star-Spangled Banner," blare once more.
U.S. forward Draymond green said, "Everybody was asking us questions." "This is something special."
Durant won the victory with two free throws in 8.8 seconds remaining. France had five points in front. France's last possession was meaningless, and the game was over. The U.S. players hugged at midcourt. Durant, Green, and Bam Adebayo were wrapped in American flags. Popovich shared a long hug and the journey was over.
"I'm so happy to Pop, the staff and the players, and the country," Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball's managing director, said. He was in charge of the men's basketball program for the fourth and final Olympics. The team won gold in each one. It's a wonderful way to end.
Jayson Tatum scored 19 points, Damian Lillard added 11 and Jrue holiday scored 11. This was a trip that the U.S. knew would be a huge success because they only wanted to win gold.
Lillard stated that "I believe it's more joy rather than relief, but certainly some relief." "Because of all the expectations placed on Team USA it's going be some relief."
Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier each scored 16 for France. This is after losing gold-medal games to the U.S. Guerschon Yabusele had 13, Nando De Colo had 12, and Timothe Luwawu–Cabarrot had 11.
Fournier admitted that they played better, and Popovich stopped to hug Fournier. They played better.
The mission was completed: Again, gold -- the 16th time in the 19 Olympic attempts for the U.S. After the first loss to France, the Americans held a players-only meeting and pledged to fix things.
Durant stated, "Everyone put in that effort every day, from the coaches to the trainers and the players." We all came in with the goal, "Let's finish it off. Let's create a family. Let's create this team. Let's build this team.
It can add to the family's legacy. Holiday is now an Olympic gold medalist just like Lauren, his wife from the U.S. women’s national soccer team. JaVale McGee has now won Olympic gold, the same as his mother Pamela who was a U.S. woman basketball player at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. They are the first American Olympic athletes to achieve this feat. The only other known example of such an event in Olympic history is a Russian mother and son team who won gold in water polo and fencing in 1980 and 1960, respectively.
McGee said, "It's an incredible feeling, man." McGee added gold to his three NBA titles. "I have a gold medal. My mother has a medal with a gold star. Mother-son duo are the first to achieve it. It's an incredible feeling. It's hard to explain. It's amazing to know that you are the best man in the world.
Holiday and Khris Midton, Milwaukee Bucks teammates, are now admitted to a very special club. Before this year, only Scottie pippen (who did it twice), Michael Jordan and LeBron James had won an NBA title as well as Olympic gold.
Holiday stated, "Definitely a great Summer."
Popovich's Olympic journey has ended, and it marks the half-century anniversary of his first Olympic attempt. Popovich was playing for the United States Air Force Academy and tried unsuccessfully for the 1972 U.S. Olympic Team. "The powers that be actually selected Doug Collins instead, it's difficult to believe," Popovich joked earlier in the summer. He then accepted the responsibility of replacing Mike Krzyzewski for this Olympic cycle.
Popovich stated, "It has been a dream to be part of the Olympics."
Popovich insists that this is not about his legacy. However, his players and assistants may disagree.
Steve Kerr, U.S. assistant coach, said that he was just happy for Jerry and Pop. Pop has been thinking about it for four to five years. After the 2004 Olympic defeat, Jerry was the one who rebuilt USA Basketball. ... We wanted Jerry to go with the gold medal."
The U.S. failed its first eight 3-point attempts before Durant made one with 2:04 remaining in the quarter. This started a 21-8 run for the Americans that led to a 39-26 lead at the end of the second quarter.
Durant was just as impressive when the U.S. lost to Spain and Australia earlier in knockout round. Durant had 21 points at halftime to keep the Americans on their feet.
Adebayo stated, "He's phenomenal."
France closed the half with a 13-5 spurt, and was within 44-39 at break. Then it was within two minutes early in the third quarter.
After the U.S. had briefly led 14 by the end of the quarter, Nicolas Batum saved his team with a crucial block to win against Slovenia in the semifinals. He beat the buzzer at the end of the third quarter with a 3-pointer to cut the U.S.'s lead to 71 to 63 going into the fourth. The French never regained the lead.
The U.S. team, which had suffered losses in its first two exhibitions and was looking vulnerable going into the Olympics, wasn't complete until the Olympics began because three of its players were already in the NBA Finals. It also lost Bradley Beal due to virus-related issues, and had lost its two previous games against France.
It didn't matter. Again, Olympic champions.
Popovich stated, "We are thrilled and honored to have been able to represent this country in the way that we did." Popovich said, "The team moved very quickly in a short time period under very difficult circumstances. This made the win even more special." It's over, and we're happy.