Kevin Durant scored 33 points as the U.S. pulled away from Russia to advance to the semifinals of the FIBA World Championship. The Americans will play Lithuania on Saturday (12 p.m. ET).
The U.S didn't shoot exceptionally well (42.6 percent) and the offense was at times one-dimensional (Durant), but it pushed the ball in transition and didn't get frustrated with Russia's physical tactics. Perhaps more important, the U.S. did an excellent job correcting its mistakes on the fly: After getting beat on the boards early in the game (which led to a five-point deficit in the second quarter), the Americans kept Russia off the offensive glass in the second half. In addition, the U.S. pressured Russian shooters at the three-point line, holding them to 3-for-16 from beyond the arc after the first quarter.
Chauncey Billups made four three-pointers and had 15 points. Russell Westbrook sparked the U.S.' dominant third quarter and finished with 12 points and three steals. Lamar Odom held up well against Russia's big front line, getting a team-high 12 rebounds.
The U.S.' relentless pressure defense and up-tempo offense have worn down the Russians. The aggressive Westbrook, who was quiet in the first half, had seven points and three steals in the quarter. After a hot start, Russia is now shooting under 40 percent from the floor and under 30 percent from three.
The U.S. closes the first half with a 14-4 run. The Russians made only 6-of-21 from the field in the second quarter (including 0-of-7 from three-point range) as the U.S. turned a five-point deficit into a five-point lead.
Durant (19 points) is playing aggressively while Andre Iguodala (six points) overcame early foul trouble to be a factor. Most important, the U.S. has converted 14-of-18 free-throw attempts, a strong counter to Russia's strategy of slowing down the Americans' fast break. (The Russians are 1-of-3 at the line.) The U.S. will have to do a better job keeping Russia off the offensive glass in the second half. Corralling those long rebounds off errant jump shots should lead to more fast-break opportunities.
The Russians have to be happy: They shot 57 percent from three-point range (48 percent overall) and outrebounded the U.S. 9-7, including a 5-2 edge on the offensive glass. Durant (13 points) is playing like his usual self but the U.S. has had few fast-break opportunities. The Americans need to push the tempo
Team USA meets Russia today (11 a.m. ET tip-off) in the quarterfinals of the FIBA World Championship in Turkey. The winner will advance to face either Argentina or Lithuania in the semifinals Saturday.
The Americans are coming off a 121-66 victory against Angola in the Round of 16, their fifth blowout in six games. Only Brazil has tested the Americans, who have overcome their lack of size so far.
Russia, however, is the biggest team that the United States has faced in the tournament. The Russians are led by 7-foot center Timofey Mozgov of the Knicks, and 6-11 Sasha Kaun, a 2008 second-round pick from Kansas who plays for CSKA Moscow.
The Russians are 5-1 in the tournament, having lost to host Turkey in group play. They beat New Zealand 78-56 to earn this matchup with the United States -- which comes 38 years to the day that the Soviet Union beat the Americans in the controversial gold-medal game at the 1972 Olympics.