Team USA Beats Tunisia, Spain Defeats Australia
In the second set of preliminary rounds games of the Olympics, Team USA broke open a close game and ran away with a 110-63 victory over Tunisia, while the morning started with Spain defeating Australia 82-70. Serge Ibaka played a nice all-around game, while Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden all scored in double figures for Team USA.
During the telecast of the USA-Tunisia game, NBC analyst and Philadelphia 76ers Head Coach Doug Collins had high praise for Durant, Westbrook and Harden, in addition to Ibaka.
“These three guys keep the pressure on you for the full 48 minutes,” Collins said. “Then you have Ibaka on the offensive boards. It’s one of the reasons they (the Oklahoma City Thunder) were in the NBA Finals. Scott Brooks has done a magnificent job with this team.”
Spain vs. Australia
The Thunder’s Serge Ibaka scored eight points in 16 minutes of action for Spain this morning, shooting 3-for-6 from the floor and 2-for-4 from the free throw line. Ibaka also added two rebounds (both offensive), two assists and a blocked shot.
Spain was outscored by five and nine in the first and fourth quarters, but bested Australia by 10 and 16 in the second and third quarters, including holding Australia to only 23 points total in those two periods. The initial push by Australia was brushed off by the Spanish side as halftime approached, then Spain blew the game open in the third quarter before Australia made a late charge to get back into it.
Ibaka helped Spain turn the tide of the ball game with a three point play late in the first quarter, then later two Ibaka buckets helped give Spain its biggest leads of the day at 20 and 22 points early in the fourth quarter.
Team USA vs. Tunisia
The Americans started out shooting 0-for-8 from three point land and were playing back-and-forth basketball with Tunisia. Until the second unit came into the game that is.
Led by Westbrook, Deron Williams, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love and Andre Iguodala, Team USA’s second unit came into the game and immediately went on a 9-0 run at the end of the first quarter to take the lead for good. With intensity and pressure on the perimeter, transition scoring opportunities and good ball movement, Mike Krzyzewski’s squad changed the game completely in the second and third quarters.
“Defensively we did a great job of getting stops, getting out and attacking the basket,” Westbrook said to NBC’s Craig Sager at halftime. “Take them off the line. They shoot the ball well from three, so you have to do a good job of contesting them.”
The American athleticism continued to shine throughout the second half, where it outscored Tunisia 64-30, including 39-14 in the third quarter alone. The burst was accentuated by Krzyzewski’s decision to start the second unit at the beginning of the third quarter in place of his normal starting five. Westbrook was one of the many catalysts in that enormous third period that started with a 10-0 run marked by his steal and assist in a two-on-one to Iguodala.
On the day, Westbrook finished with 11 points, three rebounds and three assists, in addition to offering up three highlight drives to the basket. Westbrook took the ball coast to coast on two separate occasions to finish lefty layups while being fouled, then also made a steal in the back court and raced to the other end to drop the hammer on a massive right-handed dunk, which seemed to blow away Collins on the telecast.
“This young guy is such an electric player in the open court,” Collins said. “He took off from the foul line and get right to the rim, right on top of the basket. Such an explosive player… You keep looking for the trampoline when Westbrook goes into the lane. It’s unbelievable to see a point guard attack the iron like that.”
Including Westbrook, Team USA had a balanced scoring effort, with all 12 players scoring and six in double figures. Durant had an effective game in all aspects, racking up a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds in addition to five assists. Harden went 2-for-3 from three-point land en route to 10 points and two rebounds.
Krzyzewski’s crew as a whole seems to be improving and continuing to learn how to play together as a team, something that one of the team’s longest tenured members, Anthony, told Sager after the game.
“We’re just trying to get better as a team,” Anthony said. “The only thing we want to do is come out and respect them as a team and a country. The first half was a little bit slow, but the third quarter we came out and opened it up and we never turned back.”
Come back to thunder.nba.com later this week, as all four Thunder players will be in action again on Thursday as Spain takes on Great Britain and Team USA faces off against Nigeria.