By Brian Mahoney
AP Basketball Writer
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Three wins from gold, and still no reason to think it will be easy for the U.S. men’s basketball team.
Klay Thompson ended an Olympic-long slump with seven 3-pointers and 30 points, and the Americans needed almost all of them to hold off France 100-97 on Sunday.
The U.S. won its 50th straight tournament game, but the last three have been nothing like most of the previous 47.
Winning by three for the second consecutive game, the U.S. improved to 5-0 and clinched first place in Group A. The Americans open quarterfinal play Wednesday, still the favorite but looking as beatable as ever under Mike Krzyzewski.
Their opponents couldn’t be determined until the completion of play Monday in the log-jammed Group B, where all six teams are still alive. The U.S. will play whichever team finishes fourth.
“This isn’t a tournament that we’re going to just dominate,” U.S. guard Paul George said. “There’s talent around this world and they’re showcasing it. For us, it’s just figuring out how we’re going to win. We’re having spurts of dominating, but we’re just not finding ways to put a full 40 minutes together.”
Nando de Colo and Thomas Heurtel each scored 18 points, carrying France while Tony Parker sat with a toe injury.
Kevin Durant scored 17 points after he took just four shots in the previous game, the Americans’ 94-91 victory over Serbia on Friday.
After pounding China and Venezuela to open the Olympics, the Americans pulled away late to beat Australia 98-88 before edging the Serbs when Bogdan Bogdanovic missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Americans could never put away the French in this one, even with Thompson finally having his first good performance in Rio de Janeiro.
Banished to the bench earlier in the tournament, he rejoined the starting lineup Sunday and came out firing — and this time, making his shots. He had come into the game with just 11 points on 4-for-26 shooting in the first four games.
He hit five 3-pointers in the third quarter alone Sunday, the last making the lead seem safe at 78-62. But the French were back within four by midway through the fourth.
All that came without Parker, the four-time NBA champion with the San Antonio Spurs who had been limited to about 20-25 minutes per game here as he gets back into game shape after missing time during their training when his wife gave birth to their second son last month.
This time he didn’t play at all, with the French federation saying during the game he injured his toe in their previous victory over Venezuela.
Parker sat on the bench with his teammates in the first half but then didn’t return when they came back from the locker room at halftime, finally emerging with a little under 3 minutes left in the third quarter.
“He’s fine. He’s resting,” said French coach Vincent Collet, who also de Colo out in the final minutes after he banged his leg.
Parker was hardly missed because de Colo and Heurtel kept carving up a U.S. defense that was expected to be the team’s strength but has been vulnerable against the crafty international offenses.
Luckily for the Americans, this time they could count on offense from Thompson to get them through.