DimeMag

The USA Men Erased A 15-Point Deficit To Crush Australia And Reach The Gold Medal Game

As has been the case throughout these Olympics, the USA men’s basketball team found itself in an early hole in their semifinal matchup with Australia on Thursday in Tokyo, but this time it felt like they might be in some real danger.

A red-hot Boomers squad jumped out to a 41-26 lead in the second quarter, playing sensational basketball on both ends of the floor, and having beaten the Americans in their last two exhibition meetings, it looked as though they might just have Team USA’s number. However, as has been the case many times in these Olympics, Kevin Durant kept the Americans from falling into an insurmountable hole with his ridiculous shot-making, scoring 15 first-half points and leading the charge as Team USA closed the gap to 45-42 at the half (much like in their quarterfinals game against Spain).

It didn’t take long for the U.S. to regain the lead in the third quarter, as a Jrue Holiday runner put them up 46-45, an advantage they wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the way.

Durant continued to shine in the third, as he has been the driving force throughout the Olympics for Team USA on offense, carrying them at times when needed — and it has been needed probably more than he and his teammates would like.

He did get ample support in the second half from Devin Booker, who came alive and found his shooting stroke, finishing the night with 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting (3-of-5 from three).

As a team, the Americans heated up in the second half, but it was the defense that was the catalyst, continuing to stymie Patty Mills as a scorer, but also doing a much better job taking up the airspace from Australia’s perimeter shooters and asking a lot of questions from their tertiary players. Jock Landale, Nic Kay, and Chris Goulding accounted for 27 of Australia’s 61 shots on the night, which simply isn’t a winning recipe for the Boomers, as Team USA did a magnificent job in the late second quarter and the entire second half of taking away Australia’s primary options.

Holiday, Durant, Draymond Green, and Zach LaVine all were masterful on the defensive end, smothering Australia’s offense with their length to force bad shots and turnovers that led to breakouts on the other end.

In the end the Americans ran away with a 97-78 win to advance to the gold medal game, where they will either get a chance to avenge their lone loss of the Olympics against France or take on Luka Doncic and Slovenia. Durant finished with 23 points on 10-of-19 shooting from the field, as he was finally able to relinquish the offensive creation duties to others and rest up in the fourth quarter while his teammates pulled away. Booker’s 20 led the rest of the cast around KD, with Holiday and Khris Middleton each chipping in 11 points to help the cause — Holiday also led the team with eight assists.

As for Australia, they will play for the bronze against the loser of that France-Slovenia game, as they seek their first Olympic medal in men’s basketball.

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