‘Losing helps you grow’: US men recover to make basketball quarter-finals | Tokyo Olympic Games 2020
The US lost their first two exhibition games of the summer in Las Vegas, dropped their opening game at these Olympics and had a difficult time shaking free of the Czech Republic in their group-play finale. None of that matters now.
The Americans are headed to the quarter-finals at the Tokyo Games with a shot of being good as gold once again. Jayson Tatum scored 27 points, Kevin Durant added 23 and set a pair of USA Basketball men’s Olympic records, and the US defeated the Czechs 119-84 on Saturday to clinch a berth in the knockout stage.
Zach LaVine scored 13 points, Jrue Holiday had 11 and JaVale McGee finished with 10 points for the US. The Americans shot seven for 20 in the first quarter then made 33 of 44 shots over the next 26 minutes, including a staggering 21-for-25 start to the second half.
“It’s fun to watch,” Holiday said, “and fun to be part of.”
The US finished second behind France in Group A, but will join the French, Australia and the winner of Sunday’s game between Slovenia and Spain as a top-four seed for Tuesday’s quarter-finals based on Fiba’s tiebreaker system that includes point differential.
Those quarter-final matchups will be decided in a draw on Sunday night, but the US will not face any of the three group winners until at least the semi-finals.
Blake Schilb scored 17 for the Czech Republic, who led by 10 early and were still only trailing 60-54 midway through the third quarter. Durant passed Carmelo Anthony as both the US Olympic men’s all-time points and all-time field goals leader during the game
“I think the first half, we played amazing. … Second half, we ran out of gas,” Czech Republic coach Ronen Ginzburg said.
Once in the quarters, it is win-or-else time. And the quarter-finals were the round where it all went awry for the US at the last major international competition, the Basketball World Cup in China two years ago. The Americans lost to France, ending all hope of a medal and eventually finished seventh.
Here, it’s all about gold for the US. “We don’t plan on getting bronze of silver,” US reserve Keldon Johnson said.
This US team – 54-point winners over Iran and 35-point winners on Saturday – haven’t looked much like that World Cup team did two years ago, though they needed some time to find their best stride against the Czechs. After some time together, some adversity together, the world’s No 1-ranked team look like the one to catch yet again.
“Losing definitely helps you grow,” Holiday said after the game.