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Not even close

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US stars rout Serbia in final of men’s basketball for 3rd straight gold.

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – The trip wasn’t always easy, though they arrived at their expected destination.

The players on the US Olympic men’s basketball team never doubted they would be standing on the gold-medal platform, even after some close calls in Rio and criticisms they lacked the usual big names and bigger wins.

“I know there was kind of a lot of buzz around us not playing well a couple of games, two, three games in the early round,’’ Carmelo Anthony said, “but the way that we locked in and the way that we focused in to be able to have this gold medal around our necks was special.’’

Saving their best for last in a tournament that had been tough, the Americans convincingly won their third straight gold medal, beating Serbia 96-66 on Sunday.

“We came here and despite what people are saying about this group, being less talented and not blowing teams out, we did a good job of bottling all that up and unleashed it on Serbia,’’ forward Paul George said.

Kevin Durant scored 30 points in the final game with the national team for Mike Krzyzewski, who took the Americans back to the top and leaves with them there after becoming the first coach to win three Olympic gold medals.

“To go home as gold medalists and leave Coach K off with another gold was one of our main goals as well,’’ Durant said.

Anthony also picked up his third gold to go with a bronze, becoming the most decorated male in Olympic basketball history.

The US beat Serbia by just 94-91 in pool play, holding on when Bogdan Bogdanovic missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

This rematch looked nothing like that meeting, but it did resemble the final of the 2014 Basketball World Cup, which the Americans won 129-92.

“To come out there and play as well as we did against a team that had stepped up their play as well, it showed that we came together at the right time,’’ Durant said.

Anthony checked back into the rout in the final minutes so he could grab a seventh rebound, passing David Robinson for US record with the 125th in his Olympic career. He had already become the leading scorer earlier in the tournament, capping an Olympic career that began with disappointment as a member of the US team that finished third in 2004.

The Americans haven’t lost since, winning 25 straight in the Olympics.

A few of the victories were more difficult than usual in this tournament, where half the Americans’ eight games were decided by 10 points or fewer.

Krzyzewski said it didn’t matter how the Americans won, that there would be no questions as long as they did.

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