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France outlasts Luka Doncic and Slovenia in thriller, to face Team USA for gold medal

Nicolas Batum and Luka Doncic after France v Slovenia Men's Basketball - Olympics: Day 13

SAITAMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 05: Nicolas Batum #5 of Team France consoles Luka Doncic #77 of Team Slovenia following Team France victory over Team Slovenia in a Men’s Basketball semi-finals game on day thirteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Saitama Super Arena on August 05, 2021 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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Nicolas Batum consoled Luka Doncic, who sat sullenly with a towel draped over his head and his face buried in his hands.

But nothing could undo the cruelty Batum unleashed on Doncic’s Slovenia moments earlier.

Batum shaded off his man (Klemen Prepelic) toward Doncic, causing Doncic to give up the ball then recovered to make the game-winning block on a driving Prepelic in the final seconds of France’s 90-89 victory over Slovenia in the Tokyo Olympic men’s basketball semifinals Thursday.

France will face Team USA in the gold-medal game (10:30 p.m. Eastern Friday). The Americans have a shot at redemption after losing to France in group play in Tokyo and the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

Or the U.S. could easily lose to France team good enough to finally beat Slovenia, which was 17-0 with Doncic.

Doncic (16 points, 18 assists and 10 rebounds) was brilliant Thursday. The Mavericks guard’s triple-double is just the third in Olympic men’s basketball (Alexander Belov for the Soviet Union in 1976, LeBron James for United States in 2012.) Though his decision to pass rather than take the last shot is open to criticism, Doncic threw himself all over the court all game, playing passionately through pain against a defense keying on him.

France just had the better team.

Nando de Colo (25 points, seven rebounds and five assists) played an excellent all-around game. New Knicks wing Evan Fournier (23 points) again shined as a scorer. Jazz center Rudy Gobert (nine points, 16 rebounds, four blocks and three assists) and Clippers forward Nicolas Batum (four blocks) keyed the defense.

Doncic wasn’t completely a one-man show. Former Hornets center Mike Tobey scored 23 points, and Prepelic added 17.

In its first Olympics, the Slovenian men’s basketball team will face Australia for the bronze medal (7 a.m. Saturday). Australia is seeking its first men’s basketball Olympic medal after finishing fourth in 1988, 1996, 2000 and 2016.