When Jerry Colangelo was handed the keys to USA Basketball in April 2005, he was entrusted with the task of rejuvenating a program that had been knocked from its perch as the most dominant force in international basketball. A bronze medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens showed that the post-Dream Team practice of simply throwing together 12 All-Stars would no longer work against international teams that were improving and spending more time together playing in international competition.
One of Colangelo’s first moves was to hire Mike Krzyzewski as his head coach, and since that point USA Basketball has strengthened its position as the best in the world. Sunday, the Americans won their third consecutive Olympic gold medal with a 96-66 win over Serbia in Krzyzewski’s final game as head coach.
Against a team that they beat by just three points in pool play, the U.S. grabbed control of the game in the second quarter and didn’t look back. Kevin Durant got going offensively, finishing the game with 30 points on 10-for-19 shooting from the field, and Paul George’s defense on Serbian guard Milos Teodosic kept the silver medalists from getting much of anything done on the other end.
The U.S. led by 23 points at the half and by 36 after three quarters, leading by as much as 41 before Serbia managed to close the margin in the game’s final minutes. Nemanja Nedovic led Serbia, which had never won an Olympic medal in basketball as an independent nation, with 14 points.
DeMarcus Cousins added 13 points and Klay Thompson 12, and Carmelo Anthony scored seven points in his final game in international play as he announced his retirement from USA Basketball following the win.
But it was the defense, which was much-maligned during pool play, that turned what had the potential to be a competitive game into a rout. All three opponents in bracket play shot less than 40 percent from the field after the U.S. allowed their last three opponents in pool play (Australia, France and Serbia) to shoot better than 50 percent from the field. When the chips were down the U.S. raised their level of play, ensuring that one of the men responsible for the program’s resurgence would go out on top.
With Krzyzewski (88-1 as head coach; 24-0 in the Olympics) moving on, Colangelo will work with San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich to ensure that the U.S. not only remains on top but doesn’t take that status for granted. And given the work that’s been done over the last 11 years or so, it’s hard to imagine USA Basketball taking a step back anytime soon.
Facing a team in China that they blew out on two pre-Olympic exhibitions (by 50 and 49 points, respectively), the United States was expected to begin its run to a fourth consecutive gold medal in men’s basketball with an impressive showing at the Carioca Arena Saturday night. Mike Krzyzewski’s team took care of business as expected, battling through a couple short stretches of sloppiness to defeat the Chinese by the final score of 119-62 to move to 1-0 in Group A play.
While China managed to score the first two points of the game, that was the only semblance of control that they would enjoy in this one. Kevin Durant scored a game-high 25 points and dished out six assists for the Americans, with DeMarcus Cousins adding 17 points and five rebounds and Kyrie Irving 12 points and five assists. Irving made four three-pointers on the night, with three of those coming during a third quarter stretch in which he made three consecutive from beyond the arc. Paul George, who two years ago suffered a horrific leg injury that kept him out of that years World Cup of Basketball, added 15 points in the win.
The Americans pulled away during the latter stages of the first quarter, leading 30-10 through one, and a 16-0 run in the third quarter proved to be the catalyst the United States “needed” to win by 57 points. They shared the ball offensively, with 31 of their 38 made field goals being assisted and six players finishing the game with at least three assists.
The United States limited China to 37 percent shooting from the field while also forcing the underdogs into 21 turnovers. Yi Jianlian, who spent some time earlier in his career in the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks, paced China with 25 points and six rebounds. The United States returns to action Monday night at 6:00 p.m. Eastern when they take on Venezuela, another team the Americans beat during their pre-Olympic exhibition tour.
Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins was told he made his first U.S. Olympic team, according to reports citing unnamed sources Friday.
Cousins, 25, was an All-NBA Second Team player this season, making his second All-Star team and ranking fourth in the league in points per game (26.9) and fifth in rebounds per game (11.5).
If Cousins plays in the Olympics (the 12-man roster is expected to be named later this month), he could be in line for major minutes given the withdrawal from Olympic consideration by fellow big men Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge.
Cousins came off the bench behind Davis at the 2014 FIBA World Cup, averaging 9.6 points and 5.6 rebounds in 13.8 minutes per game.
Other big men who could make the Olympic team include 2012 Olympian Kevin Love, 2008 Olympian Dwight Howard and 2014 FIBA World Cup teammates Andre Drummond and Kenneth Faried.
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