Durant-led USA storm back to beat Australia in Olympic basketball semis
Newsfrom JapanSports Tokyo 2020
Tokyo, Japan | AFP
Kevin Durant scored 23 points and Devin Booker added 20 to power three-time defending champions United States past Australia 97-78 Thursday and into an Olympic men’s basketball final against either France or Slovenia.
The Americans were 24-18 behind after the first quarter and 42-45 adrift at half-way, but stormed back during a dominant third term to stay on track for a fourth consecutive gold medal.
It was revenge for Gregg Popovich’s men who had crashed to Patty Mills’ Boomers in their past two meetings, including a demoralising 91-83 defeat in Las Vegas last month.
They also lost 98-94 in the lead-up to the 2019 World Cup in Melbourne.
But when it comes to the Olympics the US are dominant and stretched their lead over their long-time foes at the Games to 9-0, crushing Australia’s title dreams.
The world’s third-ranked team have never finished on the Olympic podium despite boasting some of the best players in the world, playing in the top leagues.
And they now face another bronze medal match, having contested four previously and lost the lot.
The Americans opened their Tokyo campaign with a shock defeat to France but have slowly found their groove, with the Brooklyn Nets’ Durant again pacing their offense.
He was averaging 18 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists a game heading into the semi-final and once more proved authoritative, with the USA’s all-time top Olympic scorer adding nine rebounds and two assists.
San Antonio Spurs’ Mills poured in 15 points for Australia and Dante Exum chipped in 14.
The Boomers’ Utah Jazz centre Joe Ingles sunk seven points, including two 3-pointers, in the first quarter to send his team into the second term with a six-point cushion.
Outside the arc shooting had been US team’s primary weapon in Tokyo, but they struggled early against the Australians, with Phoenix Sun guard Booker only nailing their first seven minutes into the second quarter.
The Boomers opened a 15-point lead as they took charge on the fast-break, but another three-pointer, this time from Jayson Tatum, helped pull the US back into contention to be 45-42 down at half-time.
The reigning champions then blew the game open in the third quarter, dominating it 32-10.
They took the lead for the first time since the opening minute when Damian Lillard nailed two points inside the paint as part of a 12-point run.
It helped open a 19-point buffer going into the final stretch and they never looked back.
© Agence France-Presse