USA vs. France: LeBron James Key to Victory over French and Gold Hopes

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USA vs. France: LeBron James Key to Victory over French and Gold Hopes
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It sure wasn't pretty, but it was effective.

LeBron James facilitated the pace and Kevin Durant added 22 points in his Olympic debut, as the U.S. team cruised to a 98-71 victory over France earlier today in the first round of group play.

The French team seemed hell bent on making the United States shoot jump shots, and it was paying off early.

In the opening quarter, the U.S. looked like they might be in for a dog fight.

They missed six consecutive three-point shots, and France pulled to within one after Yannick Bokolo made a three at the first quarter buzzer.

Once the second quarter opened, however, the Americans began harassing France with stifling defense and then the victory was never in doubt.

The defensive effort caused Tony Parker to have a very pedestrian game. Parker is France's best player and he could only muster 10 points, while he had more turnovers than assists.

Their rough defense also caused the U.S. squad to get into foul trouble early, but Chris Paul has faith in his team's defense and he talked about it with ESPN.com:

"Like we've been saying all along, our defense is what makes us so good. As long as we do that, we'll have a chance."

The early foul issues caused coach Mike Krzyzewski to play many of his bench players, which showcased just how deep this U.S. team goes. 

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Depth will be key for America, but make no mistake, LeBron James is going to be the basketball star in these games.

He stands at 6'8" and 250 pounds, while possessing the most unique blend of size and speed to ever grace a basketball court.

James only shot the ball six times against France, but he ran the offense with precision and finished with eight assists. The Miami Heat star also finished the game with nine rebounds.

With a shortage of pure passers, Mike Krzyzewski will have to lean on LeBron to be a distributor during the Olympics.

He will also be counted on to score during America's run, and some of these international players have never seen an athlete quite like LeBron James.

Krzyzewski is going to use James at every position on both ends of the court in the next few weeks.

After winning his first NBA championship this season, James seems to have had the weight of the world lifted from his shoulders, and now the world gets to sit back and enjoy the show.

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