SAITAMA, Japan — The United States men’s basketball team fell to France, 83-76, in its opening game of the Olympics on Sunday night at Saitama Super Arena, remaining on unsteady footing after taking a rocky path to Tokyo.
The Americans shot only 36 percent and were outscored badly in the third quarter, 25-11, when they blew an 8-point halftime lead and fell behind for good.
Evan Fournier, who played for the Boston Celtics last season, led France with 28 points. Jrue Holiday, fresh off winning the N.B.A. title with the Milwaukee Bucks, scored 18 for the United States less than 24 hours after landing in Tokyo.
Since late June, when their 12-man roster was announced, the Americans have experienced multiple waves of upheaval.
Bradley Beal was removed from the roster and ruled out of the Olympics on July 15 after testing positive for the coronavirus. The next day, the team lost Kevin Love, who was struggling with a leg injury. Last week, Zach LaVine was forced to miss the team’s flight to Tokyo and had to join the group later in the week after being placed in virus-related protocols himself.
And the three players who appeared in the N.B.A. finals — Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Holiday — did not join the team at their hotel in Tokyo until early in the morning on Sunday. U.S. Coach Gregg Popovich had indicated leading into the tournament that he would have to be ready to adjust playing time based on how players were dealing with jet lag and fatigue.
Personnel issues aside, the team had not looked great on the floor. It lost two consecutive exhibition games in Las Vegas, falling to Nigeria and Australia in a three-day span. Before those losses, the men’s national team had lost only two games in total out of 56 played since 1992.
Still, the United States remains the heavy favorite to win the tournament and collect the 16th gold medal in the program’s history.