After slow start, Team USA rebounds to blow out Argentina

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After playing below the expectations set for them in wins over Australia, Serbia and France, the U.S. men’s basketball team began knockout round against Argentina looking not only to advance but to also perform better on both ends of the floor.

Things didn’t go as planned at the start however, as Argentina jumped out to a 19-9 lead with point guard Facundo Campazzo getting going early to lead the way. But with Carmelo Anthony getting into early foul trouble and the perimeter defense lacking, Mike Krzyzewski went to a backcourt trio of Kyle Lowry, Paul George and Jimmy Butler. The improved defense sparked by those three, combined with Kevin Durant’s hot shooting, ultimately resulted in a 105-78 U.S. victory.

Next up for the Americans will be Spain, a team playing much better than they were at the start of this competition. Spain has lost to the U.S. in each of the last two Olympic gold medal games.

WATCH: Kevin Durant leads Team USA to men’s basketball semifinals

Durant finished with a game-high 27 points, shooting 9-for-13 from the field and 7-for-9 from beyond the arc. He was one of four players in double figures for the U.S., with Paul George adding 17 points, DeMarcus Cousins 15 and Kyrie Irving 11. But scoring hasn’t been, nor will it be, an issue for the U.S. even with the occasional issue of a lack of ball and player movement. The defense was the problem in those three close victories to end pool play, and the major improvement made there is the big takeaway from Wednesday’s win.

MORE: U.S. knocks off Argentina to advance to semis

Argentina was a good matchup for the U.S. given their lack of a back to the basket post scoring option, but their ability (especially Campazzo) to operate off of ball screens could have been an issue for the U.S. But thanks in large part to Lowry, George and Butler it wasn’t, and their energy on the defensive end of the floor impacted the rest of the team. As a result Argentina shot just 38 percent from the field and 8-for-32 from three, with Luis Scola scoring a team-best 15 points.

Argentina’s loss signals the end of an era for that nation, as Manu Ginobili has played in his final Olympics (Andres Nocioni announced his international retirement following the game). Ginobili was given a curtain call in the game’s final minutes, with fans, teammates and opponents all showing respect to a man who will certainly be a Hall of Fame inductee down the line. And as far as the U.S. is concerned, they owe a debt of gratitude to the “Golden Generation” of Ginobili, Nocioni, Carlos Delfino and Luis Scola.

Ginobili: “I’ve been so lucky”

USA Basketball’s last Olympic defeat came to Argentina in the semifinals of the 2004 Olympics in Beijing, with that sparking a deep look into the program that ultimately resulted in the hiring of Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski.

The U.S., now two wins away from a third straight Olympic gold medal, hasn’t lost in Olympic play since.

CJ Nickolas ends U.S. men’s taekwondo medal drought at world championships

CJ Nickolas Taekwondo
US Performance Center/USA Taekwondo

CJ Nickolas became the first American man to win a world taekwondo championships medal since 2009, taking silver in the 80kg division in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Wednesday.

Nickolas, 21, beat Olympic bronze medalist Seif Eissa of Egypt in the semifinals, then dropped the final to Italian Simone Alessio, the world’s top-ranked man in the division. Nickolas is ranked third in the world at 80kg.

Nickolas moved up to the senior ranks after taking silver at the 2018 World Junior Championships in the 68kg division. He lost in the round of 32 at the last two worlds in 2019 and 2022, but did take bronze at a Grand Prix last September in the 2024 Olympic host city of Paris.

At the Tokyo Games, the U.S. had zero male taekwondo athletes at an Olympics for the first time since it debuted as a medal sport in 2000.

Anastasija Zolotic took gold for the U.S. women in Tokyo but is not at worlds after February right hip surgery. She is back in training.

Makayla Greenwood is the 2022 World champion at the non-Olympic 53kg, which is the weight just below Zolotic’s 57kg. Greenwood, who is due to compete at worlds on Sunday, must move up to 57kg or down to 49kg for an Olympic pursuit.

A nation can enter no more than one athlete per division at the Olympics.

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At the French Open, a Ukrainian mom makes her comeback

Elina Svitolina French Open

Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, once the world’s third-ranked tennis player, is into the French Open third round in her first major tournament since childbirth.

Svitolina, 28, swept 2022 French Open semifinalist Martina Trevisan of Italy, then beat Australian qualifier Storm Hunter 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 to reach the last 32 at Roland Garros. She next plays 56th-ranked Russian Anna Blinkova, who took out the top French player, fifth seed Caroline Garcia, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 on her ninth match point.

Svitolina’s husband, French player Gael Monfils, finished his first-round five-set win after midnight on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. She watched that match on a computer before going to sleep ahead of her 11 a.m. start Wednesday.

“This morning, he told me, ‘I’m coming to your match, so make it worth it,'” she joked on Tennis Channel. “I was like, OK, no pressure.

“I don’t know what he’s doing here now. He should be resting.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Svitolina made at least one major quarterfinal every year from 2017 through 2021, including the semifinals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2019. She married Monfils one week before the Tokyo Olympics, then won a singles bronze medal.

Svitolina played her last match before maternity leave on March 24, 2022, one month after Russia invaded her country. She gave birth to daughter Skai on Oct. 15.

Svitolina returned to competition in April. Last week, she won the tournament preceding the French Open, sweeping Blinkova to improve to 17-3 in her career in finals. She’s playing on a protected ranking of 27th after her year absence and, now, on a seven-match win streak.

“It was always in my head the plan to come back, but I didn’t put any pressure on myself, because obviously with the war going on, with the pregnancy, you never know how complicated it will go,” she said. “I’m as strong as I was before, maybe even stronger, because I feel that I can handle the work that I do off the court, and match by match I’m getting better. Also mentally, because mental can influence your physicality, as well.”

Svitolina said she’s motivated by goals to attain before she retires from the sport and to help Ukraine, such as donating her prize money from last week’s title in Strasbourg.

“These moments bring joy to people of Ukraine, to the kids as well, the kids who loved to play tennis before the war, and now maybe they don’t have the opportunity,” she said. “But these moments that can motivate them to look on the bright side and see these good moments and enjoy themselves as much as they can in this horrible situation.”

Svitolina was born in Odesa and has lived in Kharkiv, two cities that have been attacked by Russia.

“I talk a lot with my friends, with my family back in Ukraine, and it’s a horrible thing, but they are used to it now,” she said. “They are used to the alarms that are on. As soon as they hear something, they go to the bomb shelters. Sleepless nights. You know, it’s a terrible thing, but they tell me that now it’s a part of their life, which is very, very sad.”

Svitolina noted that she plays with a flag next to her name — unlike the Russians and Belarusians, who are allowed to play as neutral athletes.

“When I step on the court, I just try to think about the fighting spirit that all of us Ukrainians have and how Ukrainians are fighting for their values, for their freedom in Ukraine,” she said, “and me, I’m fighting here on my own front line.”

Svitolina said that she’s noticed “a lot of rubbish” concerning how tennis is reacting to the war.

“We have to focus on what the main point of what is going on,” she said. “Ukrainian people need help and need support. We are focusing on so many things like empty words, empty things that are not helping the situation, not helping anything.

“I want to invite everyone to focus on helping Ukrainians. That’s the main point of this, to help kids, to help women who lost their husbands because they are at the war, and they are fighting for Ukraine.

“You can donate. Couple of dollars might help and save lives. Or donate your time to something to help people.”

Also Wednesday, 108th-ranked Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis ousted three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3 in four and a half hours. Wawrinka’s exit leaves Novak Djokovic as the lone man in the draw who has won the French Open and Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz as the lone men left who have won any major.

The top seed Alcaraz beat 112th-ranked Taro Daniel of Japan 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2. The Spaniard gets 26th seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada in the third round.

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