The U.S. men’s basketball team will take on Australia in the Olympic semifinals early Thursday morning, after pulling away from Spain, 95-81, in Tuesday’s quarterfinal.
Team USA trailed Spain by as many as 10 points in the first half, but flipped the script in the third quarter thanks to 13 points from Nets’ scoring machine Kevin Durant.
Durant finished the game with 29 points, continuing to extend his record as the leading scorer in U.S. Olympic men’s basketball history.
“We’ve got to finish it,” Durant said after the game. “We’re supposed to be here. For us it’s about getting the gold.”
Jayson Tatum continued his strong Olympic showing with 13 points, adding to double-digit performances from Jrue Holiday (12 points), Damian Lillard (11 points), and Zach LaVine (10 points).
On the Spanish side, Ricky Rubio’s 38 points were not enough to avoid his fourth consecutive Olympics with a loss at the hands of the United States. It was the most points scored by an individual against Team USA in the Olympics or any other major competition.
Tuesday’s game came after the added stress of NBA free agency, which opened Monday. Team USA coach Gregg Popovich reportedly negotiated with free agents for his Spurs throughout the day, barely sleeping or eating according to ESPN, and reserve center JaVale McGee agreed to terms with the Suns.
Next the Americans will face Australia and its NBA-laden roster, including new Nets signee Patty Mills, which defeated the U.S. in Las Vegas during a pre-Olympics exhibition.
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Mills poured in 18 points as the Boomers pummeled Argentina 97-58 in their quarterfinal matchup. He led the team’s balanced scoring effort, one of five Australian players to reach double figures.
Team USA’s chances at gold will rest on their ability to avoid prolonged shooting slumps. The Americans still rely heavily on 3-point production to power their offense. When the 3s aren’t falling, making just 4 of 17 in the first half of Tuesday’s game, the score remained close. If the U.S. shoots closer to its 9 of 15 mark from Tuesday’s second half, it should cruise through the remaining competition.
“You have to be who you are,” Popovich said. “The 3-point shot is important in basketball in all levels these days; it’s not a secret.”
On the other side of the bracket, Luka Doncic powered Lithuania into the semifinal round with a 20-point, 11-assist and eight-rebound performance in a win over Germany. Lithuania is 17-0 in international competition when Doncic plays, a run that includes the European Championship in 2017.
Lithuania’s semifinal opponent is the also-unbeaten France, who handed the U.S. its only loss of the tournament during pool-play competition.