The United State’s Men’s National Team, perhaps in solidarity with their countrymen and women waking up early to watch their game back home, got off to a sleepy start versus the Czech Republic in their final game of group play at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
They eventually woke up.
After trailing by as many as 10 points in the first quarter, the USA outscored the Czechs by 29 in the second and third quarters on the way to a 119-84 victory on Saturday at Saitama Super Arena.
With the win, the United States qualifies for the quarterfinals by finishing second behind France in Group A with a 2-1 record. The United States will face either Italy, the second-place team in Group B, or the second-place team in Group C, which will be determined by Sunday’s game between Spain and Slovenia.
Even though Saturday’s game was all but a must-win for both teams, it was the Czechs, who entered the contest with the same record in group play as the Americans, who looked like the more motivated team in the early going. Behind 11 first-quarter points from Blake Schilb, the Czech Republic jumped out to a 14-7 advantage. The United States would respond with an 11-4 run, though Czech Republic scored the last four points of the quarter to take a 25-18 advantage into the second.
And after threatening to overtake the Czechs early in the second quarter, the United States took their first lead of the game with the first points of what would be a 10-0 run that would take less than two minutes to rattle off.
They would never trail again.
After taking a 47-43 lead into the intermission, the United States opened the game up early in the second half. A 9-2 run gave the Americans a 57-47 lead with 6:02 to play in the third, which was followed up a few minutes later by 16-2 run to close out the quarter that would put the United States up by 22 going into the fourth.
Even though a loss was imminent at that point, the Czechs had cause to keep the game as close as possible with two third-place teams qualifying for the the knockout round based on point differential. But the United States continued to pull away, going up by as many as 38 before costing to the 35-point victory.
After leading the United States in their first win at the Olympics versus Iran, Damian Lillard went 3-of-10 from the field for eight points to go with three assists, three rebounds and a steal in 26 minutes.
Kevin Durant, who passed Carmelo Anthony to become the leading scorer in USA Men’s basketball history, finished with. 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists in 27 minutes. Jayson Tatum came off the bench to score 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting in just under 24 minutes.
Schilb led the Czechs with 17 points. Ondrej Balvin had 15 points, Jan Vesely added 13 and Tomas Satoransky went for 12.
The United States will now have to wait until a draw on August 2 to find out which team they’ll face in the quarterfinals, which will be held on August 3.