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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Flaws and all, no one can turn it on like Team USA


Team USA has come a long way.
Image: Getty Images

If you’re here, you’ve probably been nervous even before late last night.

Team USA hoops lost against France to start their Olympic-run over a week ago, their first loss in the games since 2004. Before these Olympics even began, some had been comparing this squad with that 2004 roster, and losing scrimmages to Nigeria and Australia the first time we saw it didn’t help matters either. To some degree, through imperfection, criticism, and (still) a worldwide pandemic, they’ve been able to navigate through Olympic-play, channeling their typical victorious selves, even in the face of double-digit deficits, like the one it overcame against Spain a couple of days ago.

And then came Australia.

In last night’s/this morning’s Olympic men’s semifinal, Team USA was paired with the same squad who defeated them in an exhibition game three weeks ago, complete with the chorus of boos from fans in attendance at the Las Vegas held contest. But in Tokyo, Japan, in a game that actually mattered, Team USA showed that what happened in Vegas stayed in Vegas (apologies for the cliche but the shit is right there, fam) with a gutsy and statement-making 97-78 victory over the Boomers, putting themselves in the gold medal game this Friday evening (American time zones).

It didn’t look good when trailing Australia 24-18 at the end of the first quarter. Neither did falling behind by double-digits with 6:41 left in the second quarter, 33-23. There were also those five first-quarter turnovers, continued stagnant offense, and contested jumper after contested jumper. Despite all that (the halftime deficit, the harrowing lack of offensive continuity, and the seemingly limited spirit on display) the Americans somehow managed to win by 19 points with the help of a 28-4 run between quarters two and three to swing the game entirely.

Team USA trailed by as many as 15 in the second quarter, but you could feel the offense awakening as it battered its way into Australia’s lead, cutting it to three before halftime, and a wide-open Jayson Tatum buzzer-beating missed three would’ve tied the game. Team USA began the third with 12 unanswered points before Australia finally woke up. But from there, the Americans put the Aussies to sleep like a Shawn Michaels superkick before everyone made it a regular ass move, outscoring Australia 32-10 in the third quarter. And you can figure out the rest.

Kevin Durant was the guiding light, producing when the team’s offense was non-existent, and igniting his teammates as they embarked on the game-changing run. He led the way with 23 points on 10-for-19 shooting. Devin Booker followed with 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting.

The gold medal game between Team USA and France — who beat Luka Dončić and Slovenia this morning — tomorrow at 10:30 p.m. EST. Team USA men will be going for gold medal number 16.

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