Durant scores 29, US reaches Olympic semis, tops Spain 95-81

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SAITAMA, Japan (AP) — Back and distant they went, the three-time defending Olympic champions from the U.S. connected 1 side, the reigning Basketball World Cup champions from Spain connected the other.

The difference: The Americans had Kevin Durant.

He’s ne'er gone to the Olympics and not won golden — and clearly, doesn’t program connected that changing. Durant scored 29 points to support his quest for a 3rd Olympic rubric alive, and the Americans are headed to the medal circular aft ousting Spain 95-81 connected Tuesday successful a quarterfinal matchup astatine the Tokyo Games.

“We’ve conscionable got to decorativeness it. Got to decorativeness it,” Durant said. “We’re expected to beryllium here. For us, it’s astir getting the gold.”

Jayson Tatum scored 13 and Jrue Holiday added 12 for the U.S., which volition play either Australia oregon Argentina successful the semifinals connected Thursday. The Americans besides gave themselves the accidental of extending a streak similar nary different successful Olympic hoops past — successful each 18 of their erstwhile Olympic men’s hoops appearances, they’ve gone location with a medal.

“It was a fantastic crippled successful the consciousness that we consciousness perfectly large astir the victory, knowing afloat good there’s a batch of enactment to beryllium done,” U.S. manager Gregg Popovich said. “We played a terrific hoops team.”

Ricky Rubio was superb for Spain, scoring 38 points — a Spanish men’s Olympic record, and the astir ever scored by a U.S. men’s Olympic opponent, topping the people of 35 by Puerto Rico’s Butch Lee successful 1976. Sergio Rodriguez added 16 and Willy Hernangomez scored 10 for Spain.

Damian Lillard scored 11 and Zach LaVine added 10 for the U.S.

“Right now, determination is nary clip for disappointment and nary clip for immoderate different spot of feeling,” Spain manager Sergio Scariolo said. “We are competitors and we mislaid the quarterfinal, but we cognize we played against an unbelievable team.”

It wasn’t easy, and seldom is against Spain. This was the 5th clip the teams — the apical 2 men’s programs successful the astir caller FIBA satellite rankings, the U.S. astatine No. 1 and Spain No. 2 — had met successful the Olympic quarterfinals oregon aboriginal since 2004. The U.S. is present 5-0 successful those games, but the borderline of triumph successful those is simply a close-by-American-Olympic-standards: 9.2 points.

And this 1 was nary different. Spain really led by 10 successful the 2nd quarter, earlier the U.S. went connected what became a 36-10 tally implicit the adjacent 9 minutes to instrumentality power for good.

“It was a immense boost,” Durant said. “We didn’t privation to spell into the fractional down treble digits. … We knew we didn’t privation to get down large against this team.”

Spain had won 3 consecutive Olympic medals, taking silvers aft losing to the U.S. successful the gold-medal games successful 2008 and 2012, followed by a bronze successful 2016 aft falling to the U.S. successful the semifinals. And this whitethorn beryllium the past clip that the Spanish roster has immoderate of its longtime mainstays; Pau Gasol is 41, different apical players similar Marc Gasol and Rudy Fernandez are overmuch person to the extremity than the beginning, and this mightiness person been Spain’s champion accidental to bushed the U.S. astatine the Olympics.

“I deliberation it’s clip for idiosyncratic other to bask the ride,” Marc Gasol said, indicating he’s playing for Spain for the last time, aft a crippled wherever helium and his member some went scoreless — an unthinkable conception successful Spanish hoops for 2 decades. “I deliberation it’s clip for maine to get disconnected the thrust and for immoderate young guys to measurement connected and bask it.”

Spain got down 7 early, past simply did immoderate it wanted against the U.S. for a 10-minute agelong of the archetypal half. It was a 29-12 tally by the clip it was over, a burst that turned a 17-10 aboriginal shortage into a 39-29 pb with 3:25 near until halftime.

Spain changeable 13 for 22 during that stretch, the U.S. conscionable 5 for 22 — missing 12 of its past 13 shots successful the run. But conscionable erstwhile it looked similar the Americans were successful large trouble, it was their crook to rally.

“We conscionable needed to respond,” Tatum said. “It was a time, not to get worried, but to rise our consciousness of urgency.”

And that’s what they did. A 14-4 U.S. tally to adjacent the fractional made it a 43-43 crippled astatine intermission, the burst capped by 7 consecutive points implicit the last 70 seconds. With that, it was a 20-minute crippled to determine who would play for medals and who would beryllium going location earlier than planned.

The Americans didn’t way again.

“A squad with truthful overmuch firepower, you learn,” Marc Gasol said. “You learn.”

The U.S. opened the 2nd fractional connected a 15-4 tally — making it a 22-4 tally going backmost to precocious successful the 2nd 4th — and went connected to pb by arsenic galore arsenic 16 earlier taking a 69-63 borderline into the fourth. The pb held up, and the medal circular awaits.

“We’re successful a bully spot close now,” Durant said.

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