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Nicolas Batum's heroic block sends France to gold medal game

Nicolas Batum's heroic block sends France to gold medal game
Posted at 2:08 AM, Aug 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-05 11:14:12-04

Slovenia has been one of Tokyo's top stories thus far. After qualifying for the men's Olympic basketball competition for the first time in the country's history, Luka Doncic and company have done nothing but captivate the masses as they plowed their way to the semifinals.

Unfortunately, the Slovenians' hopes of winning a gold medal in Tokyo were shot down Thursday morning after they fell to France by a score of 90-89 in one of the most intense games of the Olympics.

Doncic was once again the straw that stirred the drink for Slovenia, but became clearly hindered late in the game after suffering an injury to his wrist. Unable to play at his highest level, other Slovenian players like Klemen Prepelic and Jaka Blazic were forced to step up and keep their country within striking distance.

Both players did so for the most part, but it was too little too late as Prepelic, who had just sunk a clutch three-pointer to make it a one-point game with 33.2 seconds to go, had a potential game-winning layup blocked by France's Nicolas Batum in the game's final moments.

Thanks to Batum's heroics, France will advance to the gold medal game for the first time since 2000.

SEE MORE: Nicolas Batum's clutch block saves game for France

Rudy Gobert was a menace for France throughout the contest, finishing with nine points and a whopping 16 rebounds. Evan Fournier (23 points, 50 percent shooting efficiency) and Nando de Colo (25 points, seven rebounds and five assists) also stepped up in clutch time to lead France to victory.

Doncic, despite dealing with his wrist injury, finished with a rare Olympic triple-double — 16 points, 10 rebounds and 18 assists. With Doncic mostly on lockdown for a large portion of the contest, Mike Tobey did an admirable job of keeping Slovenia right on France's tail. Known more for his defensive prowess, Tobey was outstanding offensively in this game, especially in the early going. The 26-year-old finished the first quarter with 10 points and a pair of rebounds. He led Slovenia with 23 points in the contest, along with eight boards.

While the gold is now out of reach for Slovenia, they do still have a chance to earn some hardware when they take on Australia in Saturday's bronze medal tilt. Australia fell to the United States in their semifinal matchup early Thursday morning by a score of 97-78.

France, meanwhile, will be entering the gold medal game with a mountain of confidence. France handed the United States its first Olympic loss since 2004 during the preliminary round, and their stifling defense should match up well against Team USA's turnover-prone attack.