US bounces back from Olympic-opening loss, routs Iran 120-66

Jul 27, 2021, 12:15 PM | Updated: Jul 28, 2021, 1:25 am

SAITAMA, Japan (AP) — The U.S. basketball team got back to winning — and winning easily.

Damian Lillard scored 21 points and the Americans rebounded from an opening loss with their first victory of these Olympics, romping past Iran 120-66 on Wednesday.

Devin Booker scored 16 points and Jayson Tatum had 14 for the Americans, who had their 25-game Olympic winning streak snapped with an 83-76 loss to France on Sunday.

The U.S. not only bounced back with a win but did it in a Dream Team-type performance against an overmatched opponent, racing out for transition dunks and stepping back to knock down 3-pointers.

“We came out with more freedom as individuals and took the shots that we normally take,” said Kevin Durant. “And they went in tonight and we guarded up, so it was a good step.”

And they made the shots they normally take. The U.S. knocked down 19 3-pointers and 23 of its 37 shots (62%) inside the arc.

It was a loud statement that might quiet some of the criticisms the team has heard right from the start of its summer, when it dropped its first two exhibition games.

Those came against a different caliber opponent. The Americans had played some of basketball’s best, with games against Spain, Australia and Argentina — the Nos. 2-4 teams in the men’s rankings — before facing the seventh-ranked French in the Olympic opener.

But Iran presented none of the problems of those contenders, a team that only earned its spot in the field in Tokyo by being the highest-finishing Asian team at the 2019 Basketball World Cup. The Iranians are ranked 23rd, ahead of only host Japan — which qualified for the Games automatically as the host country — in this 12-team field.

Lillard struggled and then stumbled in his Olympic debut, going 3 for 10 from the field before a costly fall and foul with 17 seconds left.

But he came out aggressively looking for his shot, a player known for his deep 3-pointers in the NBA having it easy while shooting behind the closer international line.

He had six of the Americans’ 13 3-pointers in the first half. All 11 U.S. players who played in the first half scored — late roster addition Keldon Johnson of the San Antonio Spurs didn’t play until the second half.

“Our chemistry has been great since Day 1,” Durant said. “We all decided to be here. This is the national team. But I think we were a bit too unselfish early on, trying not to step on toes. That might have bit us. But tonight guys came out super-aggressive to look for their shot but also keep everybody involved and we were able to make some shots.

“Damian came out and got it scorching for us. We’re going to need that going forward.

Former NBA center Hamed Haddadi scored 15 points for Iran (0-2).

The U.S. and Iran are longtime rival nations in the political arena but have little history in the basketball one. They had played only once before, a U.S. victory in the 2010 world basketball championship in Istanbul.

Players on both teams then — Durant was one of them — said it was just a regular game despite the history of tension between their nations and this game looked the same. Players exchanged cordial fist bumps and some pats on the arm before tipoff.

The Iranians wouldn’t be anywhere near the Americans much longer.

The U.S. led 28-12 after one and pushed the lead to 30 on its 10th 3-pointer in 17 attempts to begin the game, making it 47-17 when Zach LaVine made his second in a row.

The U.S. plays the Czech Republic on Saturday to close pool play, with a victory guaranteeing the Americans a spot in the single-elimination quarterfinals.

The Americans are probably through already no matter what thanks to what will be an enormous point differential as a result of this rout.

The U.S. probably doesn’t care what type of team it came against. The Americans just needed to look good against somebody.

They came into the game just 2-3 this summer after splitting their exhibition games in Las Vegas before the loss to France. They had rarely looked sharp while navigating roster changes, a game cancelation for coronavirus safety concerns and the absence of Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton and Booker until the eve of their opener because those three had played in the NBA Finals.

Holiday, who was the best American player in the opener, and Booker moved into the starting lineup Wednesday.

TIP-INS

U.S. Durant is up to 331 points in his three Olympics. Carmelo Anthony set the U.S. record with 336 in his four appearances. … LaVine scored 13 points.

Iran: Iran fell to 2-10 in the Olympics. This is its third appearance in men’s basketball, having dropped all five games in Beijing in 2008 and both here. It also competed in 1948.

UP NEXT

U.S.: Plays Czech Republic on Saturday.

Iran: Plays France on Saturday.

___

More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Podziemski powers Santa Clara to 86-76 victory over Iona

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Brandin Podziemski finished with 27 points and nine rebounds to propel Santa Clara to an 86-76 victory over Iona in the Las Vegas Classic on Saturday night. Podziemski sank 7 of 13 shots, all three of his 3-pointers and 10 of 12 free throws for the Broncos (5-2). He added three […]
24 hours ago
BYU tight end Isaac Rex (83) celebrates with teammates after scoring a 43-yard touchdown against St...
Associated Press

BYU rolls past Stanford 35-26 in regular-season finale

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Jaren Hall threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score to lead BYU to a 35-26 victory over Stanford on Saturday night. The Cougars (7-5) scored touchdowns on their first four possessions to take control in their regular-season finale and assure themselves of a winning record for a fifth straight […]
24 hours ago
Washington wide receiver Ja'Lynn Polk, back, celebrates his touchdown with offensive lineman Henry ...
Associated Press

No. 12 Washington outlasts Washington St 55-31 in Apple Cup

PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — Michael Penix Jr. threw for 484 yards and had five total touchdowns and No. 12 Washington reclaimed the Apple Cup with a wild 51-33 victory over Washington State on Saturday night. A year after the Huskies watched the Cougars celebrate snapping a seven-game losing streak on the turf of Husky Stadium, […]
24 hours ago
Associated Press

Montana stuns Southeast Missouri State 34-24 in FCS playoffs

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Malik Flowers scored on a kickoff return, Junior Bergen scored on a punt return and Montana scored 31 straight points over an 11-minute span to stun Southeast Missouri State 34-24 in the first round of the FCS playoffs on Saturday night. Robby Hauck finished with 15 tackles for Montana , becoming […]
24 hours ago
Two anti-riot police officers wave the Iranian flags during a street celebration after Iran defeate...
Associated Press

US soccer displays Iran flag minus Islamic Republic emblem

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The U.S. men’s soccer team has begun displaying Iran’s national flag on social media without the emblem of the Islamic Republic as nationwide protests challenging Tehran’s theocratic government continue. The Twitter account of the U.S. men’s team on Sunday displayed a banner with the squad’s matches in the group stage, with […]
24 hours ago
Associated Press

Indiana coach says Vegas tourney set back women’s basketball

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Indiana women’s basketball coach Teri Moren said she considered not playing Memphis on Saturday night in the Las Vegas Invitational because no paramedics were on site to tend to an injured Auburn player in the preceding game. Auburn freshman Kharyssa Richardson fell hard to the floor with four minutes left against […]
24 hours ago
US bounces back from Olympic-opening loss, routs Iran 120-66