Durant & Co. overcome boredom.
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – Red, white and blase for one quarter, the US Olympic team woke up and won with ease.
Shaking off a sluggish, sloppy start and maybe some Brazilian boredom, the Americans regrouped in the second quarter and romped over Venezuela 113-69 on Monday, taking another step toward a possible third straight gold medal.
Kevin Durant scored 16 points and Carmelo Anthony 14 for the US squad, which may have grown a touch overconfident following a 57-point blowout of China in its tournament opener. The Americans were tied at 18-all after one quarter, but stopped turning the ball over and fouling, unleashed their defense and outscored Venezuela 30-8 in the second period. They cruised from there, improving to 82-1 under coach Mike Krzyzewski and reminding everyone it’s going to take a special performance for 40 minutes to deny them another Olympic title.
“Everything’s not going to be easy,’’ Durant said. “We know that, even with this great team.’’
It was similar to the meeting between the teams in Chicago on July 29, when the US shot poorly and still won by 35 on their pre-Rio exhibition tour. Maybe this was a reminder that no team can be taken lightly – and there is little margin for error – once the Olympic flame is ignited.
“Once we settled down, made our adjustments to the way they were calling the game, the way that Venezuela wanted to play the game, that second quarter we picked it up defensively and turned it around,’’ Anthony said.
The Americans continue pool play on Wednesday against unbeaten Australia. The Aussies, featuring five NBA players, four of them league champions, improved to 2-0 on Monday with an impressive 95-80 win over Serbia. Australia has never won an Olympic medal in men’s basketball, but Krzyzewski knows the team from Down Under will be up for the Americans.
“I don’t think they’ve gone back to their boat or apartment or wherever they’re staying thinking they can’t beat us,’’ the coach said. “They feel like they can beat us and we understand that.’’
Anthony, the four-team Olympian and two-time gold medalist playing in his record 25th game for the United States, provided a much-needed spark in the second quarter.
With the Americans leading just 28-22 and looking anything but golden, Anthony came across the lane and stripped the ball away from Venezuelan center Gregory Echenique and passed it to Kyrie Irving. Anthony followed Irving up the floor, accepted a feed on the wing and knocked down a 3-pointer that lifted some of the pressure – and fog – off Team USA.