This has not been the ideal build up or Olympic Games for the star-studded US Men’s basketball team, but after defeats in their warm up games to Nigeria and Australia and an opening group game defeat to France, the U.S. team have shown real grit and determination to qualify for the gold medal game.
In their semi-final, they faced the same Australian team that had beaten them in a pre-Olympic warm up game, only this time, Kevin Durant led the team to a 97-78 victory over the team many felt could get the better of the out of sorts U.S. team.
Team USA will now face either France or Slovenia in Friday’s gold medal game, with that second semi-final being played later today.
Despite the seemingly easy nature of the win, the USA team didn’t get off to the best of starts in the game and after 15 minutes had been played, the Australian team were threatening another win having taken a 41-26 lead.
Coach Gregg Popovich pulled no punches with his team as he called their early efforts “pretty poor” but he was delighted with their response, which saw them close to within three at the half and then take control of the game in the second half to run out comfortable winners in the end.
Popovich explained how he told his team how poor they had been early in the game.
“When we pointed it out, they reacted,” stated Popovich.
“In the last five minutes of the second quarter, they were fantastic, and it continued into the third. I give them credit for understanding the game as well as being able to accept the truth…these guys want the truth, and they react to it.”
Durant Takes Control Of The Game
Trailing by three at the half, it was the U.S. team leader Kevin Durant who once again took
control of the game early in the second half. After Jrue Holiday had scored the first six points of the third quarter to put the U.S. up by three, Durant then scored the next eight points in the game to extend that lead to eleven.
With Holiday doing a particularly good job on defense, dealing with the threat of Patty Mills in particular, the Aussies couldn’t claw back the deficit in the second half and with Devin Booker adding a further 11 points in the third quarter, the U.S. team gained a lead that they would never look like losing.
Durant is now the leading point scorer for the United States team in the Olympics with over 400 points, surpassing Carmelo Anthony who had previously held the record.
“We know teams want to get us down early and see how we respond,” stated Durant after the victory.
“A lot of these guys got continuity for years and years and know how to play with each other. I feel like a lot of teams are expecting us to fold early. We stuck with it and stuck with our principles, made a couple of scheme switches on defense, and we were able to get some momentum going to the half.”
The team will go for gold on Friday morning against an unbeaten opponent in either France and Slovenia, and few would bet against the U.S. team coming through the adversity they faced to land yet another Olympic Gold.
And it if that does happen, it may well be the most satisfying gold medal ever won by a US mens basketball team.