After slow start, Durant, Team USA pull away from Venezuela


After slow start, Durant, Team USA pull away from Venezuela


RIO DE JANEIRO -- Red, white and blase for one quarter, the U.S. Olympic team woke up and won with ease.

Shaking off a sluggish, sloppy start and maybe some Brazilian boredom, the Americans regrouped in the second quarter and romped over Venezuela 113-69 on Monday, taking another step toward a possible third straight gold medal.

Kevin Durant scored 16 points and Carmelo Anthony 14 for the U.S. squad, which may have grown a touch overconfident following a 57-point blowout of China in its tournament opener.

The Americans were tied after one quarter, but turned up their defensive intensity, outscored Venezuela 30-8 in the second period and improved to 82-1 under coach Mike Krzyzewski.

"I think once we settled down, made our adjustments to the way they were calling the game, the way that Venezuela wanted to play the game, that second quarter we picked it up defensively and turned it around," Anthony said.

It was similar to the meeting between the teams in Chicago on July 29, when the U.S. shot poorly and still won by 35 on their pre-Rio exhibition tour. Maybe this was a reminder that no team can be taken lightly - and there is little margin for error - once the Olympic flame is ignited.

"The game of basketball, everything's not going to be easy," Durant said. "We know that, even with this great team."

The Americans continue pool play on Wednesday against unbeaten Australia. The Aussies, featuring five NBA players, four of them league champions, improved to 2-0 on Monday with an impressive 95-80 win over Serbia. Australia has never won an Olympic medal in men's basketball.

Anthony, the four-team Olympian and two-time gold medalist playing in his record 25th game for the United States, provided a much-needed spark in the second quarter.

With the Americans leading just 28-22 and looking anything but golden, Anthony came across the lane and stripped the ball away from Venezuelan center Gregory Echenique and passed it to Kyrie Irving. Anthony then trailed Irving up the floor, accepted a feed on the wing and knocked down a 3-pointer that lifted some of the pressure - and fog - off Team USA.

Anthony moved past Michael Jordan on the U.S. career scoring list and now only trails LeBron James and David Robinson.

Paul George scored 20 and Jimmy Butler 17 - most of them coming in extended garbage time - in the first Olympic matchup between the nations.

Venezuela's John Cox, a cousin of American superstar Kobe Bryant, scored 19 and Echenique 18.

Although this may not be the best made-in-America team as James, Stephen Curry and others chose to skip the Rio Games, the U.S. squad that came to Brazil appears to be in a class by itself. There will likely be tougher games ahead, but they haven't had one yet.

Venezuela, which doesn't have an NBA player on its roster, didn't figure to be a threat but the FIBA Americas champion wasn't intimidated by the U.S. roster of household names.

With their fans doing all they could to push the heavy underdogs, Venezuela's players outworked the Americans in the first quarter, which ended 18-all and the U.S. with six turnovers.

It was a different story in the second, when the Americans reeled off 13 straight points in one stretch to take control.

Staying on a 196-cabin luxury cruise shot anchored off Rio's coast, the U.S. team has settled in following a few choppy early days in Brazil.

Taking the floor in all-white warmups as Jay-Z's "Public Service Announcement" blared inside the Carioca Arena, the U.S. team looked both relaxed and ready.

DeAndre Jordan showed off some dance moves during layup drills as Brazilian fans, many of them wearing NBA jerseys, snapped photos of the American stars.

Late in the game, after George crushed a dunk to put the U.S. up by 43, Jordan boogied again on the sidelines.

Quinn Cook states his case for spot on Warriors playoff roster

Quinn Cook states his case for spot on Warriors playoff roster

Because it’s only two games against two of the worst teams in the NBA, it’s prudent to resist the temptation to fall in love with Quinn Cook.

Putting up Stephen Curry numbers in consecutive games does not make one Stephen Curry.

It’s impossible, though, not to clearly understand why the Warriors have consistently expressed faith in Cook, the two-way point guard who has spent three years trying to make an NBA team.

Two fine games are enough, though, for the coaching staff to recommend adding him to the postseason roster. It’s wise to have a contingency in case Curry has to miss any of the games that matter most, and the Warriors are a smart bunch.

Cook on Saturday told reporters in Phoenix that the Warriors have not addressed the possibility of being on the postseason roster. That doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking about it.

“He’s proven that he can compete at this level,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters Saturday night in Phoenix. “The last couple games, you’re seeing what he can do. He’s a great shooter. We’ve known that."

Cook scored, on back-to-back nights, 25 and 28 points, shooting 70 percent (21-of-30) from the field, including 71.4 percent (10-of-14) from deep. That’s Curry-type quality when he’s on a roll. Cook also handled the ball well, recorded seven assists and was pesky enough on defense to nab five steals.

“Quinn is showing the world that he is an NBA player,” Draymond Green said.

Cook’s 10 3-pointers over the past two games are more than anybody not named Curry, Durant or Thompson have drained over a similar stretch -- and only Nick Young among the team’s reserves have made more over any single month.

The Warriors, it just so happens, are dead last in 3-pointers made by reserves, averaging 2.0 per game, with Young accounting for 1.5 per game.

Cook is showing he might be able to help with this.

Kerr loves 3-point shooters. General manager Bob Myers is fond of saying he can never have too many shooters.

The Warriors are discovering they can’t have too many capable point guards, particularly when Cook is proving that he, like Curry, also is comfortable playing off the ball. Pairing Cook with Shaun Livingston, the primary backup to Curry, is a nice option to have.

“I’ve said all along,” Green said. “I sit here and watch so many other teams play and I wonder, ‘How is Quinn Cook a two-way player?' And then you’ve got guys in the league that can’t dribble with their left hand, or can’t go left, can’t go right, but you’ve got a guy like that as a two-way player.

“So I’m happy for him. I pray that he gets rewarded and gets what he deserves.”

Cook had brief trial runs with the Pelicans, as a rookie, and the Mavericks last season. He played a total of 14 games with the two teams. He has played 21 with the Warriors, seven as a starter, but only in the last two has he looked entirely comfortable in his role and with these teammates.

With Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Curry out, the Warriors need Cook to score. He knows he needs to score. He is scoring. And doing a few other things, too.

“Playing in the NBA is something that I’ve dreamed of my whole life,” Cook said after his 28-point performance in a win over the Suns. “I can’t really put it into words, just being able to put on an NBA jersey night in and night out, practice with an NBA team every day, has been my goal since I can remember. I’m just trying to get better every day and live in the moment. I’m just trying to win games. I’m trying to help out as much as possible, whether it’s getting guys shots, playing defense, shooting the ball.

“Lately the ball’s been going in a little bit. But with three All-Stars out, I’ve got to step up. I’m just taking it game by game and competing night in and night out.”

Sometime early next month, if not late this month, the Warriors expect to have their starting backcourt. Curry and Thompson will have returned before the playoffs begin April 14-15, and both will need to be available if for reasonable chance to repeat as champs.

But Cook is making his case for inclusion. He’ll get another test Monday night in San Antonio, where Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is sure to throw at Cook a few wrinkles he may not have seen, but the Warriors have seen enough to know he can help.

“He’s a good fit for us, too,” Kerr said. “It’s not just his ability. It’s his maturity. He’s very professional, does whatever is asked, the guys love him. They want to go to war with him.

“He’s a guy. He’s an NBA guy. We’re lucky to have him.”

That’s not an demand, or even a preference. To add Cook to the roster, the Warriors would have to shed one of their 15 players currently on a standard NBA contract.

But somewhere among Kerr’s words, I believe I see an endorsement.

Warriors need vets to bounce back against young Suns


Warriors need vets to bounce back against young Suns

The Warriors have lost three of their last four games, their roster is in shambles and, still, they look like pure gold in contrast to the Suns team they’re facing Saturday night in Phoenix.

Coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 6 o’clock, with tipoff scheduled for 7:05.

Reeling from the absences of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, the Warriors (52-17) showed plenty of the scrap in losing to the Kings on Friday in Oakland but couldn’t get much offense from their veterans.

The Suns (19-51) are having the worst season since 1968-69, their inaugural season. They’ve lost seven in a row, 16 of their last 17 and 21 of their last 23.


Warriors by 3


Quinn Cook vs. Elfrid Payton: Payton bolted to a 16-point first quarter and scored 29 the last time he faced the Warriors. Quinn is coming off a career-high 25-point game. With teams relying on diminished rosters, whichever of the two young PGs can set a tone gives his team an advantage.


Warriors: G Omri Casspi (R ankle sprain), G Stephen Curry (R ankle tweak), F Kevin Durant (R rib soreness), G Pat McCaw (L wrist fracture) and G Klay Thompson (R thumb fracture) are listed as out.

Suns: G Devin Booker (R hand sprain) and F Alan Williams (R meniscus tear) are listed as questionable. G Brandon Knight (L ACL tear) is listed as out.


Warriors: 7-3.

Suns: 1-9.


Tony Brothers (crew chief), Jacyn Goble, James Williams


The Warriors won the first of four meetings this season, 129-83 on Feb. 12 at Oracle Arena. They swept all four games last season and are 12-1 against the Suns in the Steve Kerr era.


MOTIVATED VETS: Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Zaza Pachulia, David West and Nick Young, expected to generate offense, combined to shoot 19-of-59 (32.2 percent) in a five-point loss Friday. They must be better; they can’t be much worse. Phoenix leads the NBA in points allowed.

THE BIG MEN: JaVale McGee started nine straight games at center, but Pachulia started the last two. The Suns are long up front, so McGee could be in line for a start or more minutes. In addition, Damian Jones, the team’s other 7-footer, also could get playing time.

STREAKING WITH THREES: The Suns own the longest active streak of games with at least one 3-point make (1,128). The Warriors are No. 2 (1,121). Both streaks are endangered. Curry, Thompson and Durant are out for the Warriors. Booker will either sit out or play with a splint on his shooting hand.