To the quarters: USA routs Czech Republic, 119-84 in Tokyo

Jul 30, 2021, 6:52 PM | Updated: Jul 31, 2021, 7:31 am

SAITAMA, Japan (AP) — The U.S. lost its first two exhibition games of the summer in Las Vegas, dropped its opening game at these Olympics and had a difficult time shaking free of the Czech Republic in their group-play finale.

None of that matters now.

The Americans are headed to the quarterfinals at the Tokyo Games — with a shot of being good as gold once again. Jayson Tatum scored 27 points, Kevin Durant added 23 and set a pair of USA Basketball men’s Olympic records, and the U.S. defeated the Czechs 119-84 on Saturday to clinch a berth in the knockout stage.

Zach LaVine scored 13 points, Jrue Holiday had 11 and JaVale McGee finished with 10 points for the U.S. The Americans shot 7 for 20 in the first quarter — then made 33 of 44 shots over the next 26 minutes, including a staggering 21-for-25 start to the second half.

The U.S. (2-1) finished second behind France in Group A, but will join the French, Australia and the winner of Sunday’s game between Slovenia and Spain as a top-four seed for Tuesday’s quarterfinals based on FIBA’s tiebreaker system that includes point differential.

Those quarterfinal matchups will be decided in a draw on Sunday night, but the U.S. has now assured itself of not having to face any of the three group winners until at least the semifinals.

Blake Schilb scored 17 for the Czech Republic (1-2), which led by 10 early and was still up 60-54 midway through the third quarter.

In a flash, the Czech hope of a stunner ended there.

Durant — who passed Carmelo Anthony as both the U.S. Olympic men’s all-time points and all-time field goals leader during the game — hit a 3-pointer to end the third quarter, capping a 22-6 run that put the Americans up by 22 going into the final quarter.

The outcome was not in doubt again.

Ondrej Balvin scored 15, Jan Vesely had 13 and Tomas Satoransky added 12 points for the Czechs.

The U.S. is headed to the quarters, where it is win-or-else time. And the quarterfinals were the round where it all went awry for the U.S. at the last major international competition, the Basketball World Cup in China two years ago. The Americans lost to France, ending all hope of a medal and eventually finished seventh.

This team — 54-point winners over Iran and 35-point winners on Saturday — hasn’t looked much like that one, though it needed some time to find its best stride against the Czechs.

The Czechs led by as many as 10 in the first quarter, shooting 65% to the Americans’ 35% in the opening 10 minutes. With a roster featuring just one current NBA player — Satoransky — they did not look the least bit intimidated by the U.S.

Durant gave the U.S. its first lead midway through the second quarter, a 3-pointer putting the Americans up 34-33. The lead eventually got to as much as seven, before the U.S. settled for a 47-43 edge at halftime.

And that left some in the crowd — hundreds of people were in the lower bowl of the arena, even though no tickets were being sold — more than a bit anxious. Among them: Members of the German team; their hopes of qualifying as one of the top third-place teams hinged on the outcome of this game.

By the start of the fourth, the Germans could relax. So could the Americans.

___

More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/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

Brazil's Vinicius Junior, right, fights for the ball with South Korea's Kim Moon-hwan, left, and Pa...
Associated Press

Vinícius Júnior thanks Ancelotti for success at World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Brazil forward Vinícius Júnior praised Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti for his success at the World Cup. Vinícius Júnior arrived in Qatar without knowing if he was going to get a chance to start for Brazil, but heading into Friday’s quarterfinal match against Croatia, no one questions his spot in the […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Bills’ Von Miller to miss rest of season after knee surgery

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — The Buffalo Bills’ top pass-rusher Von Miller will miss the remainder of the season after having surgery to repair an injury to the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, coach Sean McDermott announced on Wednesday. McDermott said the ligament damage was discovered during a previously scheduled exploratory surgery, which […]
1 day ago
France's Kylian Mbappe celebrates scoring his side's third goal during the World Cup round of 16 so...
Associated Press

Rested Mbappé to face England in World Cup quarterfinals

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Yes, Kylian Mbappé will be ready to face England at the World Cup on Saturday. No, the France forward was not injured when he missed a recent training session. France teammate Ibrahima Konaté delivered a reassuring message about Mbappé on Wednesday, news that perhaps England fans did not want to hear […]
1 day ago
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) looks to pass before San Francisco 49ers defensive en...
Associated Press

Tagovailoa, Zaporizhzhia make list of most mangled words

BOSTON (AP) — “Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa explained the significance of the Chicxulub impact crater to actor Domhnall Gleeson over a drink of negroni sbagliato in the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia,” is the kind of sentence that just might tie your tongue up in knots. It contains five examples from this year’s list of […]
1 day ago
goalkeeper Andries Noppert of the Netherlands celebrates at the end of the World Cup round of 16 so...
Associated Press

Netherlands’ Noppert on Messi in World Cup: `He’s a human’

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Andries Noppert is ready to face Lionel Messi if the Argentina star takes a penalty kick in Friday’s World Cup quarterfinal match. “He’s the same like us. He’s a human,” the Netherlands goalkeeper said Wednesday. Messi has scored 21 goals in 26 penalty kick attempts for Argentina among his 94 international […]
1 day ago
Brenda and Brian Lilly look at photos of their son Brian Lilly Jr. in their Easton, Conn. home, Thu...
Associated Press

Rower’s family says abusive coach pushed athlete to suicide

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — On New Year’s Day nearly two years ago, Parker Kinney spent the day with Brian Lilly Jr. at picturesque Scripps Beach in the San Diego area and realized his friend had become a shadow of his former self. Kinney and Lilly walked on the sand for hours and went to dinner. […]
1 day ago
To the quarters: USA routs Czech Republic, 119-84 in Tokyo