SAITAMA, Japan — The U.S. men’s basketball team faced disaster, down double-digits to an Australian team that had already beaten them once this summer, their every move being exploited.
Blow it all up? Blame Gregg Popovich? Maybe the team’s architect, Jerry Colangelo? Find the right excuses — the elongated 2019-20, 2020-21 NBA seasons, the injuries to the stars that didn’t compete in these Olympics, the lack of practice time.
All of it was on the table until American’s ultimate problem solver, Kevin Durant, said all of that will need to wait.
Should the Americans fail to win a gold medal, all of that stuff will be back up for consideration. But thanks to Durant’s incredible skill and help from a couple of Americans finally getting their legs under them in Japan, the U.S. men’s basketball team advanced, beating Australia 97-78 in the tournament’s semifinals.
Durant scored 23, assuring that the Americans will have a medal in these Games.
It was Durant’s supreme talent that ignited a 33-9 run that was sustained by a pair of NBA Finals competitors — Jrue Holiday and Devin Booker.
It was Holiday’s point-of-attack defense that gave the U.S. team some much-needed snarl that it lacked early, when NBA player Joe Ingles and Patty Mills both got off to quick starts. And it was Holiday’s rim attacks that helped the U.S. eventually overcome what was as big as a 15-point deficit.
With the American defense making it impossible to score, Booker loosened up and got into an offensive rhythm, having his best outing of the Olympics with 20 points — 13 coming in the second half.
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