Durant leads USA into Olympic semi-finalsWednesday, August 04, 2021
SAITAMA, Japan (AFP) — The United States kept their basketball gold medal dreams on track Tuesday by sweeping past world champions Spain 95-81 and into the semi-finals, while Olympic debutants Slovenia crushed Germany to set up a last-four clash with France.
Sharp-shooting Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant poured in 29 points and four assists for the Americans while Boston's Jayson Tatum chipped in with 13, nullifying Ricky Rubio's dazzling 38-point spree for Spain.
The three-time defending champions will next face Patty Mills' Australia, who convincingly beat Argentina 97-59, for a place in Saturday's final.
World number three Australia are yet to finish on the podium at the Olympic Games, despite contesting the bronze medal match on four occasions.
But with NBA stars like Mills and Joe Ingles in their ranks they believe they have enough firepower to break the drought in Japan.
Slovenia progressed on the back of 27 points from Zoran Dragic and another 20 from Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic in their 94-70 rout of Germany.
They will meet France who edged Italy 84-75 in a nail-biter, with Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert drilling 22 points and fellow NBA mainstay Evan Fournier getting 21.
Gregg Popovich's USA team came to Tokyo with two shock defeats in exhibition games and then crashed in their opener against eventual Group A winners France — their first defeat at an Olympics since 2004.
But they have steadied the ship and came through a see-sawing clash after knuckling down in the final stretch to go 13-0 against their rivals in Olympic competition.
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Rubio drilled 13 points to put Spain into a 21-19 lead after the first quarter as the US gave up a seven-point advantage.
They traded the lead in a back-and-forth second quarter before Spain went on a 10-point run to move 39-29 clear.
But inspired by Durant the US fought back, and two points inside the paint from Devin Booker with seconds to go drew them level 43-43 at the break.
The tide looked to turn in the third period with the US building a 22-6 streak to take charge before Spain regained ground to go into the final quarter just six points adrift at 69-63.