The United States men’s basketball team survived a first-half scare vs. Australia in the first Olympic semifinal on Thursday, turning a 15-point second-quarter deficit into a 97-78 victory.
Kevin Durant kept Team USA afloat when nobody else could get anything going. Shooting just 2-for-14 from 3 in the first half, Team USA cranked up the defensive pressure to start creating transition buckets and open 3s en route to a 31-6 run (with a 20-0 stretch sprinkled in) over the end of the second quarter and the start of the third. The Americans shot 7-for-14 from 3 over the third and fourth quarters.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Team USA had swung the game 34 points, from down 15 to up 19 with a 48-14 run. The U.S. continues to start games slowly, even sloppily, but over time the depth of their talent advantage has proven to be too much.
“A lot of teams are expecting us to fold early,” Durant said after the game. “…We had a lot of guys with straight faces when we were down 15. ‘Strong faces’ is what Pop said.”
Jrue Holiday’s defense continues to get the recognition it deserves. After an all-time defensive showing throughout the NBA playoffs and particularly in the Finals, Holiday was central to Team USA holding Australia’s Patty Mills — who was getting past his defenders at will to start the game but wasn’t able to finish much — to 15 points on 5-of-14 shooting.
“We came here with one goal and that’s to win a gold medal and now we’re in a position to do it,” Team USA star Damian Lillard stated following their win over Australia.