U.S. men’s hoops blast Venezuela after slow start
RIO DE JANEIRO — Red, white and blase for one quarter, the U.S. Olympic team woke up and won with ease.
Shaking off a sluggish, sloppy start and maybe some Brazilian boredom, the Americans regrouped in the second quarter and romped over Venezuela 113-69 on Monday, taking another step toward a possible third straight gold medal.
Kevin Durant scored 16 points and Carmelo Anthony 14 for the U.S. squad, which may have grown a touch overconfident following a 57-point blowout of China in its tournament opener.
The Americans were tied after one quarter, but turned up their defensive intensity, outscored Venezuela 30-8 in the second period and improved to 82-1 under coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“I think once we settled down, made our adjustments to the way they were calling the game, the way that Venezuela wanted to play the game, that second quarter we picked it up defensively and turned it around,” Anthony said.
It was similar to the meeting between the teams in Chicago on July 29, when the U.S. shot poorly and still won by 35 on their pre-Rio exhibition tour. Maybe this was a reminder that no team can be taken lightly — and there is little margin for error — once the Olympic flame is ignited.
“The game of basketball, everything’s not going to be easy,” Durant said. “We know that, even with this great team.”
The Americans continue pool play on Wednesday against unbeaten Australia. The Aussies, featuring five NBA players, four of them league champions, improved to 2-0 on Monday with an impressive 95-80 win over Serbia. Australia has never won an Olympic medal in men’s basketball.
Anthony, the four-team Olympian and two-time gold medalist playing in his record 25th game for the United States, provided a much-needed spark in the second quarter.
With the Americans leading just 28-22 and looking anything but golden, Anthony came across the lane and stripped the ball away from Venezuelan center Gregory Echenique and passed it to Kyrie Irving. Anthony then trailed Irving up the floor, accepted a feed on the wing and knocked down a 3-pointer that lifted some of the pressure — and fog — off Team USA.
Anthony moved past Michael Jordan on the U.S. career scoring list and now only trails LeBron James and David Robinson.