The U.S. opened the defense of its Olympic men’s basketball title with a 98-71 rout of France in London, where the Americans broke open a game they led by just one point after the first quarter.
Kevin Durant of the National Basketball Association’s Oklahoma City Thunder scored a team-high 22 points for the U.S., which outscored France 30-15 in the second quarter and extended its lead to 29 points in the second half.
All 12 players on the U.S. roster scored in yesterday’s game, with Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves adding 14 points and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers scoring 10. The U.S. held a 56-40 advantage in rebounds and limited the French to 2-of-22 shooting from three-point range.
“When we play the right way, we’re a tough team to beat,” Tyson Chandler, 29, of the New York Knicks told reporters.
The Americans, who have lost only three of the 16 previous Olympic tournaments they entered, next play Tunisia tomorrow. The U.S. won won all five of its Olympic warm-up games, including a 100-78 victory against Spain on July 24. Spain, which placed second four years ago in Beijing, Argentina and Brazil are among the top medal contenders, assistant U.S. coach Nate McMillan said before yesterday’s game.
France last won an Olympic medal in men’s basketball at the 2000 Sydney Games, where it took silver.
“We still have a lot of work to do, but that’s the beauty of it all,” Durant said. “We’re all coming together in such a short time. We’re having fun playing. Guys don’t worry about points, rebounds, assists; we just want to play to win.”
LeBron James of the Miami Heat had nine points and eight assists against France, while Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks and James Harden of the Thunder had nine points apiece. Chandler finished with eight points, including the first basket of the game, while Deron Williams of the Brooklyn Nets was second on the team with six assists.
The U.S. used an 11-0 scoring run during the second quarter to open a 33-21 lead and was ahead 52-36 at halftime. The Americans later scored 12 straight points during one stretch in the second half to build a 80-51 advantage.
“You know they’re going to be aggressive defensively, that’s what they do, so if you hand the ball over that’s when they use that opportunity to get a fast break,” France’s Boris Diaw said in an interview.
Diaw had nine points and six rebounds, while Ali Traore led the French with 12 points and Tony Parker of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs added 10.
Preparations for the Olympics have gone well for players who took part in last month’s NBA Finals, McMillan said. The Heat beat the Thunder four games to one to win the NBA title.
“They’re coming off the toughest NBA season in the history of the game,” McMillan said. “It shows these guys are committed to not only representing their country, but trying to win the gold medal.”
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