Kevin Durant stars for the USA as they beat Spain 95–81 and move on to the Olympic semi-final stage, with two more wins now required for the gold medal
By The Associated Press
Last Updated: 03/08/21 8:16am
Kevin Durant scored 29 points to hold off Ricky Rubio and Spain as Team USA progressed to the semi-final round at the Olympics with a convincing 95-81 victory on Tuesday morning in Saitama, Japan.
Back and forth they went, the reigning Olympic champions from the USA on one side, the reigning Basketball World Cup champions from Spain on the other.
The difference: The Americans had Kevin Durant.
He has never gone to the Olympics and not won gold and, clearly, does not plan on that changing. Durant scored 29 points to keep his quest for a third Olympic title alive, and the Americans are headed to the medal round after ousting Spain 95–81 in their quarter-final match-up at the Tokyo Games.
Jayson Tatum scored 13 and Jrue Holiday added 12 for USA, who play either Australia or Argentina in the semi-finals on Thursday. The Americans also gave themselves the chance of extending a streak like none other in Olympic basketball history: In all 18 of their previous Olympic men’s basketball appearances they have gone home with a medal.
Point guard Ricky Rubio was brilliant for Spain, scoring 38 points while Sergio Rodriguez added 16 and Willy Hernangomez 10. None of their eight other active players reached double figures.
It was not easy for Gregg Popovich’s team, and rarely is against Spain. This was the fifth time the teams had met in the Olympic quarter-finals or later since 2004; the USA are now 5-0 in those games, but the margin of victory in those is a close-by-American-Olympic-standards: 9.2 points.
And this one was no different. Spain actually led by 10 in the second quarter, before the US went on what became a 36-10 run over the next nine minutes to take control for good.
Spain had won three consecutive Olympic medals, taking silvers after losing to the US in the gold-medal games in 2008 and 2012, followed by a bronze in 2016 after falling to the US in the semi-finals. And this may be the last time that the Spanish roster has some of its long-time mainstays; Pau Gasol is 41, other top players like Marc Gasol and Rudy Fernandez are much closer to the end than the beginning, and this might have been Spain’s best chance to beat the US at the Olympics.
Spain got down seven early, then simply did whatever it wanted against the US for a 10-minute stretch of the first half. It was a 29-12 run by the time it was over, a burst that turned a 17-10 early deficit into a 39-29 lead with 3:25 left until half-time.
Spain shot 13 for 22 during that stretch, the US just five for 22 missing 12 of their last 13 shots in the run. But just when it looked like the Americans were in big trouble, it was their turn to rally.
A 14-4 USA run to close the half made it a 43-43 game at intermission, the burst capped by seven consecutive points over the final 70 seconds. And with that, it was a 20-minute game to decide who would play for medals and who would be going home earlier than planned.
The Americans did not trail again.
They opened the second half on a 15-4 run making it a 22-4 run going back to late in the second quarter and went on to lead by as many as 16 before taking a 69-63 edge into the fourth.
Elsewhere in the men’s basketball event, Luka Doncic had 20 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds as Slovenia beat Germany 94-70 in the first quarter-final match-up. Doncic is now 17-0 with the Slovenia team and one win away from a medal in his country’s basketball debut at the Olympics.