Kevin Durant and Team USA routed Australia in the men’s basketball semifinals on Thursday, progressing to the finals and one win away from a fourth consecutive Olympic gold.
The victory was a form of retribution against a team that had beaten the US in an exhibition game in Las Vegas last month. The Americans, who had won the previous three Olympic Games, got off to a shaky start, shooting poorly and fouling out, allowing Australia to take a 15-point lead in the second quarter.
However, led by Durant, the US team rallied in the second half, scoring 12 unanswered points to take the lead. By the final buzzer, a flurry of three-pointers and dunks had stretched the scoring differential to 97-78.
“I’ve got to give credit to Australia, they came out and hit us with a nice haymaker,” said Durant.
“We were able to get some momentum going to the half. Guys came out with that intensity, man, we made shots as well,” he said.
“I feel like everything aligned for us in that second half, and that’s who we are,” he further said.
On Saturday, the United States will face France, who won against Slovenia, 90-89. On the same day, Australia will compete for bronze against Slovenia.
With 15 men’s basketball gold medals since 1936, the Americans have long been the team to beat.
However, the team in Tokyo has shown vulnerability, losing two consecutive exhibition games in July and losing their first Olympic game since 2004 against France earlier in the competition.
It all came together in the semifinals, with Durant leading the way with 23 points. Three additional people were in the double digits as well.
“They got a lot of firepower,” said Australia’s Matisse Thybulle, who plays for the NBA’s 76ers.
“We knew that if we gave them an inch they’d be able to take a mile, so that’s really just what happened,” he added.