Kevin Durant Lifts Team USA Over Argentina

by August 17, 2016

In front of a raucous crowd, Kevin Durant and Team USA beat the Argentines 105-78. The victory marked the end of an era for Argentina. The country’s Golden Generation—Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino and Andres Nocioni—has played their last game together. The Golden Generation rose to worldwide fame at the 2004 Olympics, when they knocked out the American squad and won gold. Carmelo Anthony was on that ’04 team for America.

Behind Faco Campazzo, Team Argentina came out strong. The feisty point guard showed no fear. He scored 8 quick points and energized his fans. He even gave Kyrie Irving a taste of his own medicine.

Campazzo led the Argentines out to a 19-9 lead in the first. Early on the Americans’ struggles looked all too familiar. No ball movement, quick shots, poor defense. As has been the case, there was foul trouble, this time for Anthony, and turnovers from Irving and Klay Thompson.

Luckily, for the Americans, Kevin Durant wasn’t going to lose. He ripped off the first seven points for the red, white and blue. He ended the first with 13, pretty much singlehandedly responsible for a 25-21 lead after the first. He was smooth, playing at his own pace. It was the efficient Kevin Durant we’ve come to expect.

While the rest of Team USA couldn’t put the ball in the basket, Paul George and Jimmy Butler made the difference on defense. Campazzo, who got anywhere he wanted against Irving, was locked up by George. Butler flew around the court, covering defensive mistakes.

The trio of Durant, George and Butler helped America establish as much as a 22-point lead in the second. But what was more important was how hungry Team USA played. They kept their foot on the pedal. While the offense still didn’t look great, America’s defense was stellar. There was no room for the Argentines to shoot from distance, their strength. They couldn’t finish over the top of Team USA’s length, either.

After some huge highlight plays, the game was a wrap by the third. Durant hit three shots from downtown to start the third. Anthony added another three-ball and the lead ballooned to 27.

“We played with passion and energy tonight,” Durant told NBC Sports. “That’s the big difference. Once we did that, we were able to play well on the offensive end, move the ball, play well on the defensive end, cover for each other.

“We tend to think this is gonna be a little easier than we thought,” he continued. “But we came out here, these teams hit us in the mouth. It was a wakeup call for us.”

George contributed 17 off the bench and Cousins scored 15 in 13 minutes. But by and large, this win was all KD.

Next up for the Americans is Pau Gasol and Spain. In the previous two Olympics, the two teams have met in the Gold Medal game, with America taking both. But this isn’t 2008 or 2012. Coach Mike Krzyzewski says he’ll make sure to watch tape from both those games to get ready for Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Mirotic and the rest of the stacked Spanish squad.

That matchup is Friday, with a time to be announced. Get the popcorn ready.