USA Dispatches Russia 89-79 As Durant Pours In 33 Points
Sept. 9, 2010 • Istanbul, Turkey
Kevin Durant’s (Oklahoma City Thunder) 33 point scoring outburst and the USA’s wear ‘em down defense were the difference Thursday night as the U.S. grinded out an 89-79 victory over Russia (5-2) to advance to the 2010 FIBA World Championship medal round semifinals. Durant’s 33 point performance, which came on 11-19 shooting from the field and 8-of-9 free throw accuracy, tied for the third most all-time by a USA player in World Championship action.
The USA improved to 7-0 with the hard fought victory and next meets undefeated Lithuania (7-0) on Saturday (7:00 p.m. local time) in a medal semifinals match. Lithuania easily handled Argentina 104-85 in Thursday’s other quarterfinals contest. The USA defeated Lithuania 77-61 on Aug. 21 in an exhibition contest in Madrid, Spain, and the U.S. is 0-1 all-time in World Championship games versus Lithuania having lost 84-82 in the 1998 World Championship.
Aiding the USA’s winning effort Thursday night with 15 points and five assists was Chauncey Billups (Denver Nuggets), Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder) added 12 points and three steals, while Lamar Odom (Los Angeles Lakers) worked the inside and recorded 12 rebounds and two steals to go with six points.
“We knew it would be a very difficult game and it was. I thought we were ready and we played hard. It’s just that Russia played with great passion and they played very well. It was a very well earned win against a terrific team with a terrific coach,” said USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Duke University).
The U.S. behind seven Durant points took an early 15-9 lead. Russia countered late in the first period with a 7-0 run and the first quarter finished in a draw 25-25.
Russia outscored the Americans 10-5 over the second quarter’s first 5:12 to grab control 35-30. Following a USA timeout, the U.S. came to life and assembled a 12-0 run that saw it move ahead 42-35 with 1:08 in the quarter. At halftime the USA owned 44-39 lead.
“The main thing in the timeout was just relax. It’s a long game, just play each possession,” said Coach K about what he tld his team during the timeout.
“They were playing good defense and we weren’t hitting shots. They seemed to be in control of the game. What I worry about for a U.S. team in those spots is game pressure where all of a sudden the other team is playing so well and you put so much pressure on yourself.”
The U.S. first half lead was obtained in part because of 14-of-18 shooting from the foul line, while Russia took advantage of its size and outrebounded the U.S. 29-22 with 13 boards coming on the offensive end.
With 5:53 to play in the third quarter and holding a six point lead, 53-47, the USA cranked up its defense and behind several steals got out on the run and outscored Russia 12-3 to break the game open 65-50.
Westbrook scored seven straight points during the game clinching spurt, recording two steals that he finished off with thunderous dunks, while hitting a three in between his steals.
Russia, however, refused to call it quits, and after three periods the USA had a 70-56 lead.
Following a 3-pointer from Durant and then a basket off a drive, the USA lead was upped to 18, 81-63, with 7:26 left in the game.
Thanks to a 9-3 mini run, with 3:28 left in the contest Russia whittled the lead down to 12, 84-72.
Durant again turned back the comeback with a jumper and then a traditional three point play, which pushed the U.S. back up 86-72 and from there the U.S. rolled in for the win.
“Today was a very tough game for us. In the beginning they made a lot of shots. We had to adjust and I think we did a good job of doing that. We got better as the game was going,” offered Durant.
After giving up 13 offensive rebounds in the first half, the U.S. kept their opponent off the offensive glass for the second 20 minutes, limiting Russia to just one offensive board. Additionally, after seeing Russia make 4-of-6 3-pointers in the first quarter, the USA defense limited them to 3-of-15 3-point shooting over the remaining three quarters.
“It was a fight. It was like an Eastern Conference playoff game,” stated Billups. “It was very physical from the jump. The team that was going to win was going to be the team that imposed their will on the game. They want to play slow, they want to bang. We want to play fast and we want to be physical as well but we want to speed the tempo up and we finally got to that in the second half.”
While the U.S. was held to a tournament low 42.6 percent shooting for the game, it did hit on 10-of-26 shots from 3-point.
Durant over the course of the USA’s seven World Championship victories has averaged 19.9 ppg. and 5.9 rpg., while shooting 54.9 percent from the field, 43.8 percent from 3-point, and 92.6 percent from the foul line.
“We’re going to go to him (Durant),” said Krzyzewski. “I’ve learned that in coaching, you should get your best player the ball. There is a lot of pressure on him because we’re a young and everyone is pointing to him and overall he has responded in a truly magnificent way.”
With wins tonight, the USA and Lithuania advance to meet in one of the medal round semifinals, while Serbia and host Turkey, winners in Wednesday night’s quarterfinal games, move on to meet in the other media round semi. The winner of the two semifinals advance to Sunday’s gold medal game (9:30 p.m. local time), while the semifinals losers will play for the bronze medal on Sunday (7:00 p.m.).
The 2010 USA World Championship Team assistant coaches are Syracuse University’s Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, Portland Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan and Toronto Raptors head mentor Jay Triano.
The 2010 FIBA (International Basketball Federation) World Championship for Men is being held Aug. 28-Sept. 12 in Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir and Kayseri, Turkey. Twenty-four teams are competing in the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Men.