• USA sends message in China hoops rout

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    USA’s guard Kevin Durant (center) and teammates acknowledge the public after a Men’s round Group A basketball match between China and USA at the Carioca Arena 1 in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. AFP PHOTO

    USA’s guard Kevin Durant (center) and teammates acknowledge the public after a Men’s round Group A basketball match between China and USA at the Carioca Arena 1 in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. AFP PHOTO

    RIO DE JANEIRO: Kevin Durant scored 25 points as the USA’s NBA stars routed China 119-62 on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) to launch their bid for a third consecutive Olympic basketball gold.

    The former Oklahoma City forward, who joins Golden State next season, added a game-high six assists for the Americans, who set an all-time USA record of 33 free throws made.

    Australia opened the Olympic competition earlier in the day with an 87-66 win over France, while Serbia topped Venezuela in the other Group A match.

    The USA missed their first five shots but soon displayed the unrivalled depth and long-range shooting that makes them prohibitive favourites to secure a 15th overall men’s title.

    The Americans thoroughly dominated despite signs that the recently assembled unit is yet to completely gel.

    “It still can be better and that’s what makes us scary,” said New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, who is seeking a record third men’s hoops gold.

    “We wanted to send a message to the rest of the world that we mean business.”

    Led by 25 points from former NBA lottery pick Yi Jianlian, China put up a spirited effort, showing it could cause trouble for other teams.

    China, which has never finished higher than eighth, tried to slow the American onslaught with physicality, a strategy that kept USA players parked at the free-throw line.

    The Americans made 33 from the stripe, besting a 56-year-old team record of 32.

    Durant scored eight points in the first quarter and Anthony added eight more as the USA jumped out to a 30-10 lead.

    China hung tight in the second quarter until Durant sank three-pointers on three consecutive possessions shortly before the half, which ended with the US ahead 59-30.

    By half-time, only Cleveland Cavaliers NBA champion guard Kyrie Irving had failed to score for the US.

    But he made up for it, striking four times in a stretch of five straight USA three-pointers to put the team up 87-43 and well on its way to a laugher.

    “The USA are so aggressive in every position. You can’t even pick out the best player. They’re everywhere,” said dazzled Chinese guard Zhao Jiwei.

    Australians get a leg-up
    Earlier, Australian center Andrew Bogut shrugged off the leg injury that knocked him out of the recent NBA finals to dominate France inside with 18 points.

    Playing on a heavily taped left knee, the new Dallas Maverick center nevertheless hammered down a half-dozen rim-jarring dunks, most of them on alley-oops from Patty Mills of the San Antonio Spurs and Matthew Dellavedova of the Cavs.

    Mills led the green-and-gold with 21 points.

    Left knee bone bruises crucially knocked Bogut out in game five of the NBA Finals as his former team Golden State sought to cap a record 73 regular season wins with a repeat title.

    Cleveland won, and Bogut embarked on a desperate rehab to get ready for Rio.

    “All I thought about was that I was not going to have it (the Olympics) taken away from me,” said Bogut, who missed the 2012 Games due to injury.

    Spurs star guard Tony Parker led France with 18 points, but nearly all of that came in a late first-half spurt as the four-time NBA champ sought in vain to keep his team in the game.

    In Saturday’s other Group A encounter, Serbia soured Venezuela’s longshot hopes with an 86-62 win, led by 19 points from Bogdan Bogdanovic.

    Group B play kicks off Sunday with two-time defending silver medallists Spain opening its campaign against Croatia, Brazil facing Lithuania, and Nigeria playing Argentina.

    AFP

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