Kevin Durant did it again. Just like in 2012, Durant led the United States men’s basketball team in scoring with a performance to remember in the gold medal game on Sunday in Rio de Janeiro. Durant scored 24 of his 30 points in the first half of Team USA’s 96-66 win over Serbia, dominating like the best player at the Olympic Games should.
Team USA had a slow start offensively, but the game was out of reach by halftime. The Americans went on a 29-10 run to blow the game open. The end result was their most lopsided victory in a gold medal game since the Dream Team beat Croatia by 32 points 24 years ago.
This is the United States’ 15th gold medal at the Olympics and its third in a row under coach Mike Krzyzewski, who will now be replaced by San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
Team USA makes it three straight golds and 24 consecutive Olympic wins. CBS Sports Original
Four things to know:
1. This was Durant’s show
This has been the summer of Kevin Durant, and the Olympics were no exception. There were a few hiccups — his awful shooting game against Australia, his passive game against Serbia — in group play, but he more than made up for it in the knockout round. Earlier this week, Durant said he is at his best when he doesn’t care about winning or losing. He’s also clearly at his best when he doesn’t care who else is on the court with him and just plays his game. That’s something to keep in mind when watching him with the Golden State Warriors in a couple of months.
It felt fitting that Durant was the story here. He was the recipient of more media attention than anyone else on the team, and it had more to do with his decision to join the Warriors than the fact he was the best player on the roster. He has spoken openly about the fact that going to Golden State was unpopular. If he had struggled or the team had failed, the criticism would have been endless. Instead, Americans will celebrate this performance … and then many of them will go back to portraying him as a villain, I guess.
2. Better intensity, better focus
Overall, the United States looked a lot sharper than it did earlier in Rio. Team USA was disruptive defensively, jumping into passing lanes and getting easy points in transition. Whether it was Kyle Lowry diving on loose balls, Paul George locking up Milos Teodesic or DeMarcus Cousins dominating the glass, these stars did all the little things that Krzyzewski has been talking about lately. In the second quarter, there was even a Spurs-like offensive possession where everybody touched the ball, Serbia looked lost and Durant made an open 3-pointer.
When Team USA played like this in Rio, it was unbeatable. None of its games should have been close, but this group was vulnerable in group play because of a lack of cohesion, especially compared to other national teams that have chemistry from years of playing together. When the United States went on a big run in the second quarter, Serbia had no hope. In a way, it’s a shame the competition is over now because Team USA had just found its rhythm.
3. Carmelo cements his legacy
Carmelo Anthony got emotional in his postgame interview on NBC. He had just won his third gold medal at the Olympics in four tries, assuring that he will go down as one of the national team’s best players ever. Anthony told Ros Gold-Onwude that he will retire from international basketball.
“I know this is the end,” Anthony said. “This is it for me.”
Anthony did not stand out in the gold medal game — he had seven points, seven rebounds and two assists — but he did not have to. Thanks to his commitment to USA Basketball over the years, he is now the program’s leader in games played, points, field goals made and rebounds at the Olympics. When he is inducted to the Hall of Fame, this will be a big part of it.
4. Don’t forget Paul George
It’s unclear how this iteration of Team USA will be remembered, but George should be a significant part of the story — and no, not just because he came back from a serious injury that was suffered in a USA Basketball exhibition game two years ago. For all the talk about the United States struggling on defense throughout the tournament, it was largely fine when George and Lowry were on the court. In the gold medal game, George only scored nine points on 2-for-9 shooting, but his fingerprints were all over the win.
George had three steals against Serbia, and just like in the NBA, it looked just about impossible for anybody to create space against him. With the Indiana Pacers, George has grown from a glue guy to a No. 1 option on offense, becoming a true franchise player. With Team USA, he had a few high-scoring games, but he mainly played the role Andre Iguodala did at the 2012 FIBA World Championships and 2012 Olympics. No one was more reliable.
Courtesy: CBS Sports