Flashback: USA Men Fend Off France to Open Olympic Play with 98-71 Win
- Kevin Durant Scores A Game-High 22 Points As Second-Quarter Shooting Propels USA -
Leading by one point after the first quarter, the U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team rode a red-hot second quarter shooting streak to a convincing 98-71 win over France to open its play in the 2012 London Olympics on July 29 at the Olympic Park Basketball Arena in London, England.
A game-high 22 points from Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder), who added nine rebounds and shot 7-of-7 from the free throw line, led the USA, while Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves) added 14 points. Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers) rounded out the USA’s double-digit scorers with 10 points, including 4-of-4 from the charity stripe.
Eight assists from LeBron James (Miami Heat) and six from Deron Williams (Brooklyn Nets) helped the USA to record 27 assists on 31 made baskets. With First Lady Michelle Obama in the stands, all 12 U.S. players scored in the game, and three finished with nine points, including James, Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder) and Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks).
“We’re pleased,” said USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Duke University). “We played a very good game against an outstanding team. France is so well-coached and in (Tony) Parker, they have as good of a guard as there is in the tournament. I thought we did a good job defensively. We shared the ball. We assisted on 27 of our 31 buckets and we rebounded the ball very well. Overall, it was a good first step or us, beating an outstanding French team.”
The U.S. defense forced France into 18 turnovers, which led to 20 points for the USA, and the Europeans shot just 9.0 percent from 3-point (2-22 3pt FGs). Further, the USA outrebounded its opponent 56-40.
“We still have a lot of work to do, but that’s the beauty of it all,” Durant said. “We’re all coming together in such a short time. We’re having fun playing. Guys don’t worry about points, rebounds, assists; we just want to play to win.”
Tyson Chandler (New York Knicks), who posted eight points and grabbed nine rebounds, put the first points of the game on the board, but the USA never was able to find breathing room in the first 10 minutes. Four times the lead reached six points in the first period, including after a jump shot from Westbrook at 3:04 put the USA up 20-14. From there, however, the USA was held to just two free throws as France pulled within one point, 22-21, by the end of the quarter.
After missing all six 3-point attempts in the first quarter, a 3-pointer from James 28 seconds into the second period ignited the Americans on an 11-0 scoring run that included another three from Bryant at 8:47 and which culminated with a long ball from Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clipper) at 7:41 that gave the USA a 33-21 lead. France fought back to within seven points twice before the USA was once again out and running. A 3-pointer from Durant at 4:29 put the USA up by 10 points, and the lead reached 15 points, 43-28, with a 3-pointer from Love at 3:43. Two free throws from Durant ended the half, and the USA headed to the locker room with a 52-36 advantage.
Six of the USA’s eight made 3-pointers came in the second period, and the remaining two, from Durant and Bryant, opened the second half. France never recovered.
“We played very well,” Bryant said. “In the first quarter we gave up way too many free throws. It made the game a little choppy. It was tough for us to generate some momentum. But then after that we were able to get into a good flow.”
The USA’s largest run of the game, a 12-0 stretch, began with a free throw from Love at 2:14 in the third and lasted into the fourth quarter, when Durant was fouled driving to the basket and made both free throws to put the USA ahead 80-51. The USA, which never lost control of the momentum in the second half, took its largest lead of the game,
98-69, as Westbrook made two free throws with just 20 seconds remaining. France scored once more to bring the game to its 98-71 final.
“We’re definitely a team that can get better as the tournament goes,” said Paul. “It seems like we get better as the game progresses and we got to continue to do better to get off to a good starts. It’s a lot of shots that we leave out there seems like every game and our defense can always get better.”
Ali Traore led his side with 12 points, and Tony Parker finished with 10 points.