After a first-quarter fight, the 2016 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team (6-0) shut down Argentina (3-3) to record an impressive 105-78 quarterfinal win on Friday night at Carioca Arena 1 in Rio de Janeiro.
The USA will meet Spain (4-2) in the semifinals at 2:30 p.m. (EDT) on Aug. 19. Spain advanced after defeating France (3-3) 92-67. The other semifinal will feature Australia (5-1), which beat Lithuania (3-3) 90-64, taking on the winner of tonight’s 9 :15 p.m. (EDT) quarterfinal between Croatia (3-2) and Serbia (3-2). The semifinal winners will meet in the gold medal game at 2:45 (EDT) on Aug. 21, and the losers will play in the bronze medal game at 10:30 a.m. (EDT).
Kevin Durant, who scored 13 of the USA’s 25 first-quarter points, led the way with 27 points, including 7-of-9 shooting from 3-point, while adding seven rebounds and six assists.
“The last three games of pool play were very beneficial to us, because we played three outstanding teams. They showed some weaknesses that we have, and we tried to get better. The only way to get better is by playing these tough games,” said USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“I would say we were just better tonight and more who we can be. The effort defensively was outstanding tonight. We really played hard, and that was great to see. Like Kevin said, the passion and energy was terrific.”
The game started with Argentina sprinting out to a 19-9 lead following a made 3 with 4:00 on the clock.
From there, however, the USA saw a jumper from Klay Thompson and a steal and assist from Paul George to Durant for a 3-pointer change the game’s momentum. Those five points were the start of a game-changing 27-2 run that stretched into the second quarter and left the USA leading 36-21 with 8:16 on the clock in the second.
With three 3-pointers in the first quarter, Durant helped lead the turnaround, as did George with two big steals and DeMarcus Cousins, who had six of his 15 points in the first 10 minutes.
“We came out tonight and executed the game plan,” Durant said. “The only thing we really changed was our passion and our energy to the game. Everybody was locked in from the bench to the coaches to the guys on the floor. We were all one unit tonight. We’re going to need that going forward.”
Argentina ended the U.S. run in the second quarter with two three-point plays, but that only served to temporarily slow the USA, which reeled off 13 unanswered points to move ahead 49-27 with 3:39 before halftime.
Argentina outscored the USA 13-6 to close the second quarter, and the teams headed to the locker rooms with the USA leading 56-40.
“I thought they played extremely well out of the gate,” said Carmelo Anthony. “They took their best punch early. Once we figured that out, we settled down. The adrenaline was going a little early in the game, but once we settled down, we were good.”
Durant hit three more 3's in the third quarter, and the USA started the second half by going ahead 67-45 when Anthony sank a long-ball just 1:33 seconds in. Argentina, which shot only 38.0 percent for the game (30-79 FGs), was just 31.8 percent from the field in the third quarter (7-22 FGs), and the USA headed into the fourth quarter up by 26 points, 87-61.
The USA’s largest lead of the game – 28 points – was reached three times on the USA’s first three baskets of the final period, two of which were credited to George.
While the Argentinian crowd turned the basketball arena into more of a soccer stadium with its constant cheering and singing in the fourth quarter, DeMar DeRozan, who scored the USA’s 100th point at 1:52, caused one of the biggest reactions of the night with a steal and 360-dunk at 1:20 to make it 102-76.Harrison Barnes drained a 3 with 41.0 seconds left in the game to bring the score to its 105-78 final.
George tallied 17 points and eight rebounds, and Kyie Irving finished with 11 points and three assists. The USA compiled a 54-43 rebounding advantage and got 54 points off the bench.
“I don’t want to say the team was different, I just think the magnitude of what was at stake was a lot higher,” Irving said. “We understood that, and we understand that we have to play our best games now. The past is the past. Our moment right now is the only thing that matters, and we took care of that tonight.”