By RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media
SYDNEY -- Too little, too late.
With four minutes remaining in the men's basketball final, France was within four points of a stunning upset of the U.S. But a poor shooting performance in the first half hung over their heads like a guillotine as the U.S. and its band of NBA mega-stars won yet another gold medal with an 85-75 victory last night.
Earlier in the day, Lithuania, which nearly shocked the Americans in the semi-finals, beat host Australia 89-71 for the bronze.
The Americans have won the gold medal in 12 of the past 14 Olympics, not including the 1980 boycott of Moscow. The basketball superpower boasts a staggering 109-2 record over that stretch.
"Just wanted to keep it going," said Raptors star Vince Carter, who along with Ray Allen led the U.S. with 13 points each. Laurent Sciarra scored 19 for France. "Didn't want to make it this far to quit. If we were going to lose, we were going to go down fighting."
"We played together, and came up and proved we're the best team in the world," Allan Houston said. "It was a little bit tougher than I thought. Nobody can tell us we didn't earn it. That's what makes it even more special.
"We had to play every second for the gold medal that we got."
The plucky Frenchmen, who defeated Canada in the quarter-finals and bombed host Australia in the semis, never really challenged the so-called Dream Team until the final minutes of the game.
After the U.S. jumped out to a 46-32 first-half lead, the determined French battled back to get as close as four at 76-72 in the dying minutes. But the Americans quickly exposed France's weak interior defence by passing inside to Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Garnett to put the game away.
-- with files from AP