The performance of the U.S. men’s basketball team during the Rio Olympics was called into question several times, but the squad delivered a dominant performance when it mattered the most.

The U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team poses for a photo during a news conference. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

An 8-0 march to gold was capped by a resounding 96-66 romp against Serbia on Aug. 21, completing the U.S. basketball program’s mission in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Perennial all-star Kevin Durant led the way with 30 points and a series of highlight-reel three pointers and dunks. DeMarcus Cousins had 13 points and 15 rebounds and Klay Thompson added 12 points.

A narrow 82-76 win in the semifinal against Spain on Aug. 19 was the fourth time in five games that the U.S. won by 10 points or less. The tight games and nail-biting outcomes fueled criticism about the construction of the team. Lineups, strategies and even coaching decisions were all questioned, but those questions were answered as players celebrated at midcourt shortly after the final buzzer sounded.

Team USA’s pool play seemed lackadaisical or disinterested, but the play picked up in the medal round. The U.S. especially cranked up their defense; opponents averaged 92 points against the U.S. in their last three pool play games, until the Americans clamped down defensively to allow just 73 points per game in medal play. In their last game, Team USA’s defense restricted Serbia’s shooting to just 38 percent from the floor and a disastrous 4-of-24 from deep. In comparison, Durant alone was 5-for-11 from long range.

 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO