U.S. women’s basketball team faced France, toughest opponent yet

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RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 18: Angel Mccoughtry #8 of United States shoots against Laetitia Kamba #21 of France during a Women's Semifinal Basketball game between the United States and France on Day 13 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 18, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)

RIO DE JANEIRO — The U.S. will be playing for a sixth consecutive Olympic gold medal in women’s basketball after beating France 86-67, the closest contest of the Rio Games for the Americans.

Diana Taurasi scored 18 points as the U.S. won Thursday night without the services of Sue Bird. The U.S. turned up its defense to make up for not being as crisp offensively after routing opponents by an average of 41.7 points.

The Americans, who won their 48th straight game, will play Spain in the final Saturday.

Bird, the Americans starting point guard and team captain, was sidelined with a sprained right knee. The U.S. led only 40-36 at halftime but outscored France 25-8 in the decisive third quarter to finally get some separation from the team that they beat in the 2012 gold medal game.

France will play Serbia for bronze.