Nicolas Batum block vanquishes Slovenia, Luka Doncic to set up France-USA rematch for gold medal

·3-min read

With 20 seconds left in Thursday's Olympic semifinal, it looked like Luka Doncic time. 

Nicolas Batum had other ideas. 

Slovenia, undefeated in its first-ever Olympic appearance, faced a chance to secure a spot in the gold medal game against Team USA, trailing France 90-89 in the game's waning moments. Doncic corralled a rebound off a missed Nando de Colo jump shot with 20 seconds left and dribbled the ball over halfcourt. The Slovenian superstar, who's hit multiple game winners in moments like this during his young international and NBA career, looked for room to operate in halfcourt. 

French defenders shut down Doncic

But Batum remained glued to Doncic on the perimeter, and three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert blocked his path off a screen on the left wing. Doncic was forced to look elsewhere for the game-winning attempt. 

Nicolas Batum scored just three points on Thursday, but his late block was the biggest play of the game.  (Geoff Burke/Reuters)
Nicolas Batum scored just three points on Thursday, but his late block was the biggest play of the game. (Geoff Burke/Reuters)

He passed to shooting guard Klemen Prepelic on the right wing beyond the 3-point line. Batum pulled off a double-team of Doncic to challenge Prepleic, who dribbled past his French defender toward the basket. Batum gave chase and blocked a would-be game-winning layup from behind with less than three seconds remaining. Gobert secured the rebound and tossed the ball over halfcourt as time ran out on France's win. 

Can France pull off another upset of Team USA for gold?

Next up for France? A shot at the gold medal against the same U.S. team it upset in group play. France pulled off the stunner on July 25 to raise more questions about the gold-medal favorite Americans who entered the Olympics with losses to Nigeria and Australia in Olympic warmups. 

Team USA hasn't lost since and has looked like a more cohesive unit in those four wins thanks largely to Kevin Durant playing like the world-class player that he is. The Americans trounced Australia, 97-78 in Thursday's other semifinal and look very little like the team France beat 83-76 in the Olympic opener for both. 

But France enters the gold medal game without an Olympic loss and fresh off a big win over a tough Slovenia team featuring Doncic. They're shooting the ball well from distance, hitting 12-of-25 (48%) 3-pointers against Slovenia. They got big scoring efforts from De Colo (25 points) and Evan Fournier (23 points).

Meanwhile Gobert is doing what Gobert does, posting nine points, 15 rebound and four blocks against Slovenia. 

France certainly won't back down in Saturday's gold-medal game. But does it have enough talent to compete with a U.S. team that's found its stride?

Slovenia, meanwhile, will have to settle for a shot at bronze against Australia after another big game from Doncic (16 points, 18 assists, nine rebounds) wasn't quite enough. 

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