Kevin Durant Led Team USA Past A Red-Hot Ricky Rubio And Spain To Reach The Olympic Semifinals

The two top-ranked men’s basketball teams in the world met on Tuesday in Tokyo in quarterfinals action, as the USA went up against Spain in a familiar matchup, but one that is typically reserved for the medal rounds. The Americans took an early lead, but Spain would follow a massive 13-point first quarter from Ricky Rubio to take a 21-19 advantage into the second quarter, signally early on that this would be a hard fought game for both sides.

The Americans got down by as many as 11 in the second quarter as Spain’s offensive onslaught continued, this time led by Sergio Rodriguez (10 first half points) and their interior duo of Victor Claver and Willy Hernangomez, who dominated on the glass and in the paint. However, Team USA finally started to get some ball movement and attack downhill after a 3-for-15 start to the game from three-point range, going on a big run to close the gap and tie it going into halftime at 43-43.

Leading the way in the first half for the Americans was Kevin Durant, who had a pair of big dunks on his way to 12 first half points, with Zach LaVine chipping in seven to help get the game back to level for the second half.

The Americans kept their foot on the gas to start the third quarter, running out to a 16-point lead midway through the quarter as Durant stayed hot, scoring 13 in the third to outscore Spain by himself.

Aside from a red-hot KD, the catalyst for the USA run was a much better defensive effort, as they closed off driving lanes, forced turnovers, and didn’t allow a field goal from Spain for almost six minutes to start the third.

However, as was the case in the first quarter, Rubio was the only player from Spain who could consistently do much of anything on offense, and he erupted for 14 points in the third to keep Spain attached, dueling with Durant and not allowing the Americans to run away completely. As the third quarter ended, Spain found itself down just six thanks to Rubio’s heroics and a cold spell from Team USA.

To start the fourth quarter, Durant stayed on the bench, but Team USA was still able to increase their lead thanks to some timely threes from Damian Lillard and Jayson Tatum, as the Americans seemed to pry the lid off the rim that had seemingly existed for everyone other than Durant and LaVine for the first three quarters. In short order, the lead had been extended back to 15, but then, once again, Ricky Rubio took over and steadily pulled Spain back within single digits.

However, Rubio, who finished with 38 points (a new record for an individual against Team USA), simply didn’t have enough help offensively, as Sergio Rodriguez (16 points) was the only other real positive offensive presence for Spain on the night. Those two combined to go 19-of-30 from the field (7-of-13 from three), while the rest of Spain was just 10-of-34 from the field (0-of-10 from three) in what became a 95-81 win for the Americans.

On the other side, while Durant led the way with 29 points, it was a much more balanced effort offensively, as five players finished in double figures for Team USA — Tatum (13 points), Holiday (12 points), Lillard (11 points), and LaVine (10 points). The three-point shooting improved dramatically in the second half after missing some good looks early, but it started with better defense and getting downhill first to create looks inside and on the perimeter.

Next up for the Americans in the semifinals is the winner of Australia and Argentina in a matchup of teams that Team USA played in exhibition action in Las Vegas prior to the Olympics.