RIO DE JANEIRO — It’s rare to see the U.S. women’s basketball team struggle during the Olympics. Then again, they’ve had Sue Bird running the show for over a decade.

With the starting point guard sidelined with a knee injury, the Americans were out of sorts for a half before finally getting it together to pull away from France for an 86-67 victory in the semifinals Thursday night.

Now they’re back in the Olympic final, one victory from a sixth consecutive gold medal.

U.S. Coach Geno Auriemma made it a point to stress that unforeseen developments like Bird’s injury make it harder than just who the U.S. will beat next and “when’s the gold medal ceremony.”

“It’s not like that,” Auriemma said, “and our players really found out today that without Sue it’s certainly not going to be like that. There’s a big difference in our team the way we played today and the way we played the other six games.”

Bird’s status for Saturday’s final against Spain is unclear.

The U.S. and Spain played in the preliminary round and the U.S. won by 40. The Americans also beat Spain in the 2014 world championships by 13.

“It’s going to be the same old dance,” Diana Taurasi said. “They have world-class players. … This is going to be a great game between great teams and great players alike.”

Taurasi scored 18 points and Maya Moore added 15 against France in the closest game of the Olympics for the Americans. It was a rematch of the 2012 London Games final.

The U.S. won that one by 36 points but had a much harder time without Bird.

The point guard sprained her right knee capsule in the quarterfinals and has been listed as day-to-day. Bird said she plans to practice Friday.

“I’m not going to be stupid about this,” Bird said. “It’s your body, you have to listen to it, you don’t want to put yourself in danger. But if I can play I’m definitely playing.”

The U.S. led 40-36 at the break, the closest any team had been at the half since Australia led them in the semifinals of the 2012 Olympics. But the U.S. outscored France 25-8 in the third quarter to pull away.