RIO DE JANEIRO — The U.S. captured its third straight men’s basketball gold Sunday, running away from Serbia 96–66.
After weeks of hand wringing, the U.S. finally put together a complete game, edging Serbia in every aspect of the game.
Leading the way for the U.S. was Kevin Durant, who scored 30 points, and DeMarcus Cousins (13 points, 15 rebounds).
Here are three thoughts on the victory (the U.S.’s 25th straight Olympic victory since 2004):
Kevin Durant—still good
Remember this guy? Durant’s streaky shooting led to some close calls for the U.S. early (see: the previous game against Serbia, the game against Australia in group play), but when KD was on, the U.S. was a juggernaut. Sunday, he was on, finishing with 30 points (24 of which came in the first half), four assists and three rebounds.
As others have noted, Durant tends to shine in the big international moments. His stats in two previous gold medal games (via Yahoo!):
• 2010 FIBA world championship: 28 points (7-of-13 from three-point range)
• 2012 London Olympics: 30 points (8-for-18 from the floor)
We can now add a big Rio 2016 final to that list.
Coach K goes out on top
This game marked the end of Mike Krzyzewski’s tenure as the coach of Team USA basketball, and boy, what a tenure it was. The numbers: 60–1 in major FIBA events (including exhibitions, that figure rises to 88–1). Five out of six possible gold medals (including world championships).
The impact: Coach K restored the U.S. basketball program, leading the “Redeem Team” to gold in 2008 after the ’04 squad stumbled in Athens. He made playing for Team USA an honor again. He deepened the pool of talent for the U.S. with the select team, ensuring the U.S.’s dominance for years to come.
He leaves the team in good hands. Gregg Popovich will take over for Coach K following the Rio Games, and players are already excited about the next era. "It would be pretty amazing to be able to actually play for the greatest NBA coach of all time,” LeBron James said of the prospect of playing for the San Antonio Spurs’ coach.
But let’s not diminish Coach K, who called his experience with Team USA “the ultimate honor” of his coaching career.
Winning ain’t always pretty
Entering the game, much was made of how differently the U.S. and Serbia operate. Serbia defined the international style with a spread game predicated on crisp passing and movement. Team USA? Not so much. On offense, the U.S. relied on post-up isolations, high pick-and-roll isolations, dribble drives and pull-up threes from way out.
On Sunday, the former won out. Not a huge surprise; such is the benefit of playing with the world’s best players. But when the U.S. was struggling earlier in the Games much was made of the stagnation on offense. Team USA stuck with the gameplan, however, and it paid off. Was it ugly at times? Yeah. But it eventually proved to be the golden touch here in Rio.