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USA, Kevin Durant wear down Russians, win 89-79. Bring on the semifinals.

Sep 9, 2010, 1:48 PM EDT

Thumbnail image for durant_team_usa.jpgIt’s still the one thing the USA can do in basketball that the rest of the world can’t match.

The USA rolls with a dozen top-flight players — Danny Granger leads the Indiana Pacers in scoring, is an All-Star and gets DNPs on this team. He’d star on any other team in the World Championships.

That kind of depth wears teams down, and that’s just what happened with the USA beating Russia 89-79 to advance to the semi-finals Saturday (against Argentina or Lithuania).

Early on the Russians did a good job of making the USA pay for defensive pressure and gambles. Russia is not a great shooting team but they couldn’t seem to miss their threes early on. They also crashed the glass hard at both ends, creating second chance opportunities for themselves (six offensive rebounds in the quarter), limiting the USA’s second chances. At the end of the first quarter it was 25-25.

Through it all USA did a great job of sticking with its game plan. First, get out and run — the USA picked up several baskets on run-outs after Russian makes.

The other was to attack the zone off the dribble and get inside, and nobody was doing that like Kevin Durant. Because there is no player in this tournament like Durant. He finished with 33 points for the game and was 8 of 11 on two pointers and got to the line nine times. He was in attack mode and carried the USA for stretches.

Russia’s effort was there, but they could not keep up with the waves of players the USA kept sending at them. Russell Westbrook came off the bench and his speed and pressure defense was too much for the Russians to handle, and he finished with a dozen points. Chauncey Billups had 15 points and was 4 of 8 from three.

Near the end of the second quarter, the USA went on a 12-0 run that gave them a seven-point lead and they never looked back. In the third the USA stretched the lead out by being efficient — the USA had no third quarter turnovers. Russia missed J.R. Holden, their star point guard, as they started to melt under the USA pressure in the second half. Mentally, the Russians could not stand up to the relentless American attack.

The one Russian most being watched in America was Knicks signee Timofey Mozgov — and he looked talented but raw. He had 9 points in the first quarter and showed that he is very good at setting picks and rolling to the basket. He outplayed Lamar Odom at times. Mozgov was also a foul sponge, picking up four pretty quickly, which limited his minutes and how aggressive he could be on the floor.

Mozgov is not going to come in and dominate at the NBA level, but he does some things well and he moves well. You can see him developing into something nice. Which is about what we all expected.

This was not a dominant USA performance, it gave you some glimpses of what the USA can expect in the next two rounds. Russia for long stretches went away from its Princeton-inspired offense and went pick-and-roll, and that gave the USA some trouble (especially with Mozgov as the roll man). But the USA seemed to improve at defending the play as things went along.

But it was still a quality win against a good opponent. A good showing for the USA. They may have to play better in future rounds, but this was a win to be proud of.

  1. Tress - Sep 9, 2010 at 2:13 PM

    Congrats TeamUSA! Lamar Odom did his thing on both ends of the court! LO had 12 rebs 2 stls 6 pts! Way to hustle LO! TeamUSa is on a mission! 2 more for the Gold! Keep proving the haters wrong!

  2. micheal myers - Sep 9, 2010 at 3:17 PM

    SCOLA-WHO? 3 DAYS AGO PAPERS SAID SCOLA WAS HE BEST PLAYER IN THE FIBA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS . DURANCHALA WILL BE LEAGE MVP IN 2-3 YRS
    IN THE NBA . HE IS ONE OF THE BEST SCORERS I”VE EVER SEEN . TALK & LANKY . GREAT DEFENDER . WHEN KOBE RETIRES HE WILL BE THE MAN .SCOLA IS GOOD BUT DURANT WILL BE GREAT . HOW OLD IS HE AGAIN ?
    THE DEFENSE REST

  3. johnmaine - Sep 9, 2010 at 4:28 PM

    Read about how Pete Thamel of the New York Times purposefully misquoted a source in his Enes Kanter (Kentucky recruit) article: http://bit.ly/9v1na3

  4. suzy - Sep 9, 2010 at 5:54 PM

    I’m surprised that there is very little media coverage on World basketball championship…NBA might be the best league but the USA team could only win the tournament a few times…so, that doesn’t mean the USA all star team is the best team in the world… I think, the last time they lost to Greece in Japan. So, why not people get excited about seeing an all star team competing against the other best players of the world?

  5. kate - Sep 9, 2010 at 7:29 PM

    I’m surprised too. The media did’nt cover that much about USA Team, instead ESPN commentator Fran Franchillo had so much personal attack at cetain player even it’s not necessary. USA Team have so many good coaches, he has no right to make those comments. We are American! show some patriotism!

  6. Omnius - Sep 10, 2010 at 9:29 AM

    Team USA has the players to send out their second team this year to win the FIBA championship. Russia was a good test and now Team USA faces Lithuania whom they beat by about 15 in an exhibition 3 weeks ago. Some real surprises as Argentina and Spain have already fallen and Turkey is the big surprise winner as it is also undefeated. Good to see the home team Turkey do well, just not well enough to win the gold. My one disappointment with this website is that there is no bracket showing where we could see who played who the way we can do during March Madness or the NBA playoffs. I hope that for next year this site adds in a FIBA bracket page. The world’s greatest player Kobe Bryant and the Repeat World Champion Lakers will Threepeat next June!

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