USA Basketball disarmed Iran early and ran away to a 120-66 victory in Olympic group play.
The victory early Wednesday morning evened the USA record at 1-1 following the inartistic loss to France. The USA team now plays a must game early Saturday against Tomas Satoransky and the Czech Republic to seal their deal and advance to the "knockout round" quarterfinals of the Olympic tournament.
The USA, coming off missing its last 11 shots in the late game upset loss to France, came out blazing behind the shooting of Damian Lillard, who made six first-half three pointers. Lillard led the USA team with 21 points, all on threes, followed by Devin Booker with 16 and Jason Tatum with 14.
Booker and Jrue Holiday started the game to replace Draymond Green and the Bulls Zach LaVine, the latter who had a terrific all around game.
Playing mostly point guard again and joining Holiday in a harassing defense, LaVine scored 13 points, led the USA team with eight assists and zero turnovers and led the USA team with five of five free throws as the USA game was more balanced and active. LaVine also had four rebounds to trail USA leader Kevin Durant with five.
"We had some circumstances that not everybody's dealing with, but nobody cares," said LaVine about several late arrivals for the roster. "So we're jelling really well, getting to know each other and starting to play together on the court."
Zach LaVine elevates for a dunk as Team USA dominates Iran in Olympic pool play.
The USA team coming off a poor shooting game against France shot 55 percent overall and 48 percent on 19 of 39 threes. But it also was the example of players like LaVine that altered the game's balance of power.
LaVine was picking up defensively in the backcourt as USA players pressured Iran, which was led by former Memphis Grizzlies 7-2 center Hamed Haddadi with 14 points and seven rebounds. Though Haddadi had three quick scores to start the game, the USA with its improved pace and aggressive defense was competent on the boards. Iran only had a 41-39 edge in rebounding. But the USA led by LaVine's eight had 34 assists on 42 field goals to finally demonstrate the USA's kind of historic dominance that many have demanded.
The USA broke open the game after leading 12-9 midday through the first quarter. With Lillard's shooting, the U.S. team went ahead 23-12 with 3:29 left in the first quarter when LaVine first entered. He started against France, but coach Gregg Popovich went with the two new starters who'd arrived late—Booker and Holiday—from the Bucks/Suns Finals.
The USA team dominated in that next segment with a 28-11 run during LaVine's time on the court into just before halftime. The U.S. team scored 11 straight points to end the first quarter. The Olympic games have 10-minute quarter and slightly shorter length basketball courts.
LaVine in an encouraging sign for his eventual return to the Bulls was picking up defensively in the backcourt, forcing the Iran guards to spin and turn to get upcourt with inspired two-way play. The USA team plays a switching system on defense. LaVine was adept in fronting the post on mismatches and forced the ball away from bigger players several times. That second quarter run with LaVine included his back to back three pointers as LaVine was efficient with three of five shooting for his 13 points and two of four threes.
The USA led 60-30 at halftime.
In the second half, LaVine made a steal that led to a Durant fast break dunk and cleverly penetrated and drew several defenders before finding an open JaVale McGee for a three-point play. LaVine's three-point play enabled the USA to hit the rare 100-mark in Olympic game play.
And now comes Sato.