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US dodges bullet as France sits Parker

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) – NBA marksman Klay Thompson shook off his Rio slump to net 30 points but the USA laboured again to defeat France Sunday as Olympic basketball heads for the knockout rounds.

The 100-97 victory means the two-time defending gold medallists have won their group at 5-0 but must wait until Monday to learn their quarter-final opponent.

Australia, meanwhile, beat Venezuela 81-56 to finish second in Group A at 4-1 and thereby avoid the USA in the medal-round brackets.

After close calls against Australia and Serbia, the heavily favoured Americans had their hands full again despite France resting star guard Tony Parker for the medal rounds.

France was down just 55-46 at halftime as they found ways to penetrate the American defensive press.

“I think we just let up a little bit (defensively) and you can’t let up in this kind of tournament,’’ said Thompson.

One of the NBA’s top shooters, Thompson hit only 15 percent of his shots before Sunday.

But the Golden State Warriors guard buried five three-pointers in a brief third-quarter span for a 16-point USA lead.

“I don’t care if I shoot 10 percent the rest of the tournament. If we get the gold medal, that’s all that really matters,’’ said Klay, who finished 9-for-16 from the field.

Parker’s replacement Thomas Heurtel helped keep France in it, scoring nine of his 18 points down the stretch, but Les Bleus ran out of time as the Americans came up with big plays late.

They included a Kevin Durant alley-oop dunk off a Kyrie Irving pass thrown as the Cleveland Cavaliers guard sprawled to the floor.

Defence has been a USA worry as they seek a widely expected third straight gold.