USA Men’s Basketball Defeats China 119-62 in First Preliminary Game

 

Kevin Durant; Credit - Rob Carr/Getty Images

Kevin Durant; Credit – Rob Carr/Getty Images

By Reuven Gonzales,

Team USA officially began its quest for their third straight Olympic Gold Medal on Saturday with a dominating 119-62 victory over China. No one expected the game to even be close and it never was. The United States took care of business and handled the team from China just as they had in the two exhibition games played between the teams a few weeks back. This game was as non-eventful as the other two with the U.S. being in control essentially from start to finish, leading for 37 minutes and 11 seconds of the possible 40.

In the first quarter, the United States came out stumbling, missing their first 5 field goal attempts to start the game. It wasn’t until an inbounds play set up Kevin Durant for an open midrange jump shot with 7:27 on the clock did the U.S. score their first basket. About one minute later, the U.S. broke the game open and didn’t look back. In a key series of possessions started by a big DeMarcus Cousins dunk, the U.S. locked down China on defense to force an air ball as the shot clock expired and Carmelo Anthony muscled in a layup on the other end. On China’s next possession, they turned the ball over and Anthony once again took advantage on the offensive side, draining a 3-pointer. The American defense forced back-to-back turnovers on a traveling violation by China and a Kevin Durant step-back capped a 9-0 run that necessitated China to call a timeout after falling behind 13-4 and giving the United States momentum.

The timeout didn’t do anything for Team China though as the U.S. freight train continued to roll. They began pouring it on and China had no answer. On one possession, Kevin Durant was mismatched with a height advantage and took his time to get into the lane to shoot a short jumper over the smaller defender. Jimmy Butler was able to get out on the fastbreak and make an and-1 layup fall to score 3 points the old fashioned way. DeAndre Jordan was his usual self and slammed in a thunderous putback dunk. And finally, Kyle Lowry fed Jimmy Butler with a beautiful, long bounce pass for a buzzer-beating layup to put the United States up by 20, 30-10, after the first quarter; ending on a 26-6 run.

The second quarter remained a USA showcase that was a dunkfest for the first 5 minutes. It began with another turnover for China that resulted in a Paul George dunk. A few possessions later, it was George throwing the assist to DeMar DeRozan for an alley-oop. Then, in one of the highlight plays of the game, it was DeRozan again on a fastbreak who pulled himself up on the rim after powering home a two-handed, in-your-face dunk over a helpless Chinese defender.

The story of the last 5 minutes of the half then switched to Kevin Durant who caught fire from deep. With the U.S. already more than doubling up China 46-22 on the scoreboard, Durant sank three straight 3-point field goals before missing a long heat check to increase the U.S. lead to 55-27. Before the half came to an end, Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski sent in Harrison Barnes, thus utilizing his entire 12-man roster. Heading to the locker rooms, the United States was up 59-30 at halftime with no worries about losing the game.

It was this relaxed attitude though that may have led the U.S. to look lackadaisical to start the second half. They had no rhythm on either end of the court and China came out with more energy and enthusiasm. Unfortunately for China, they were unable to capitalize and turn their effort into any points. In an unusual paradox, they were playing better than the U.S., but still somehow fell even further behind, 70-30 at the 6:00 minute mark; a sign of the pure talent discrepancy between the two countries. The frustration showed with China when Head Coach Luming Gong was called for a technical foul for complaining about a call against one of his players. To add insult to injury, the United States then reeled off 5 straight 3’s. First, a long ball from Kyrie Irving put all 12 U.S. men in the scoring column. Kevin Durant then continued his sharpshooting by splashing in another one from downtown. Irving then followed in Durant’s footsteps from the second quarter by raining in three straight from outside before also missing a heat check. At the end of three, the score was 91-47 in favor of the United States.

In the concluding quarter, DeMarcus Cousins took over and put a stamp on the game for Team USA. Towards the end of the third, Cousins was clearly upset over a lack of foul calls as he was getting hacked inside and decided to take out his disgruntlement when he returned to the court after the break. To start, he put in an and-1 layup off a fastbreak rim run and then followed that by bullying his way to the front of the hoop for another two points. China then inexplicably left Cousins, the biggest player on the court, wide open right underneath the basket on a baseline inbounds play for the easy, old man lay-in dunk. But he wasn’t quite finished just yet. He also grabbed an offensive rebound and went right back up for the finger roll and then scored 2 more of the United States’ 31 fastbreak points with another layup. And to cap off his stat-filling quarter, he even tallied an assist to Kevin Durant for a 3-point field goal. When the final horn sounded, the United States came out on top with the big 57-point win.

It was clearly a strong offensive showing for the Americans (119 total points, Kevin Durant 25, DeMarcus Cousins 17, Paul George 15, and a 31-16 assist advantage), but they also played a stellar defensive game. The United States outrebounded China 52-29, stole the ball 15 times, and forced China into 13 more turnovers, 24, compared to only 9 themselves. The U.S. simply outmatched China and it could be seen on the court and in the stat sheet. They were physically bigger, faster, and stronger and the numbers reflected that (33 points off turnovers, 21 second-chance points, 46 points in the paint, and 54 points from the bench). The United States men will look for the same result next in the second preliminary group stage game on Monday against Venezuela at 6:00 PM EST on NBCSN/NBCOlympics.com.

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