Warriors

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

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

BOX SCORE

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.

Kevin Durant reacts to $25,000 fine, explains frustration with fans

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USATSI

Kevin Durant reacts to $25,000 fine, explains frustration with fans

In the midst of drama with Warriors teammate Draymond Green and a shooting slump that hasn't helped the team's woes, Kevin Durant's bank account took a hit Tuesday. 

Durant was fined $25,000 by the NBA for telling a Mavericks fan to "watch the f****** game and shut the f*** up" in Dallas during the Warriors' loss Saturday night. And now we know when Durant found out about the fine. 

While taping a Yahoo Sports podcast with NBA Insider Chris Haynes, the reporter broke the news live to Durant. 

"I knew I was gonna get fined," Durant said.

He then went on to explain what made him lash out at the fan. 

"More fans should understand what that means," Durant said. "Grown men can't come to a game and heckle grown men. That's corny, that's weak. You're comin' to a game to heckle another grown man. 'You're soft. You're weak. Draymond this. Draymond that. You're a b****.' 

"You're goin' to sleep as a grown man and doin' that to another person." 

Durant and the Warriors have lost four out of their last five games. Their matchup with Russell Westbrook and the Thunder couldn't come at a better time.

Warriors-Thunder for Kevin Durant at Oracle Arena is perfect timing

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USATSI

Warriors-Thunder for Kevin Durant at Oracle Arena is perfect timing

OAKLAND – Kevin Durant needs something to lift his spirits. The support of his Warriors teammates has not been enough. Maybe a stellar game, against the right team, at this time, will put some bounce in his bearing.

What could be better than winning a home game against his former team?

Well, now, look at the schedule. The Oklahoma City Thunder is coming into Oracle Arena on Wednesday night to visit Durant and the Warriors.

Hallelujah!

This promises the observer’s trifecta: curiosity, animosity and apprehension.

If ever there was a game to gauge Durant’s level of dedication to a task, to put a sharper point on what has been intermittent focus, it is this one.

Durant surely knows what’s coming. Russell Westbrook, his old friend from their days as tight teammates, will be attacking with a vengeance, as he always does, and the Warriors won’t have their star point guard, Stephen Curry, available to counter.

[RELATED: Kevin Durant frustrated by distractions he didn't create as Warriors stall]

The best counter, then, is Durant, who always enjoys winning and but achieves slightly more satisfaction from beating Westbrook and the Thunder.

Durant has been slumping on offense and docile on defense, with a touch of gloomy overall. How will he respond to stimulus that comes with such a personal touch?

The decline of the Durant-Westbrook friendship began in the summer of 2016, when Durant contemplated leaving OKC and didn’t bother generating a dialogue with Westbrook, despite their years of shared triumphs and failures. They were close, until they were not. Their bond eroded, with Westbrook passive-aggressively expressing bitterness, perhaps to conceal his disappointment.

Durant didn’t much bother chiming in. He chose not to publicly play the feud game initiated by Westbrook and hyped by media. Durant’s response was to, along with his Warriors teammates, do whatever it took to hang a defeat on the Thunder.

He’s winning. The Warriors, since acquiring Durant, are 6-2 against OKC. Durant’s teammates have stated that his presence – along with that of Westbrook on the other side – provides much of the inspiration when facing the Thunder.

Just the same, Westbrook takes particular delight in beating his ex-teammate.

It’s not that they hate each other. They simply don’t enjoy each other’s company nearly as much as they once did. They don’t have each other, so they don’t need each other.

The Warriors are struggling mightier than they have at any time since Steve Kerr took over as coach in May 2014. They’ve lost three in a row, and four of their last five. The players are uncertain of what’s to come and fans are on the verge of panic.

One team official wondered Tuesday if they would hear booing if they didn’t at least approach their usual standard, which is going to be difficult with Draymond Green and Curry both out of the lineup.

[RELATED: Steph Curry explains why it's harder for Warriors to move past drama]

“Get back to the basics,” Kerr urges. “Take care of the ball. Defend at a high level. Box out; you don’t give your opponent extra possessions. All the little details you can get away with when you’re at full strength, you can’t get away with them now.”

Durant is the best bet to pull them out of his tailspin. Klay Thompson is the next best bet. Both have been in futile pursuit of the gifts that have made them two of the best players in the league.

If they don’t do it, who will?

“We’ve got to find a good balance to that,” Andre Iguodala says. “It’s kind of like that scale. You don’t want to tip one side too much but you don’t want to forget about them as well. It’s just about having the right balance, but within the balance is trusting the system and the ball movement, that it’s going to find who it’s supposed to find.”

Given the current state of the Warriors, the ball is supposed to find Durant more often than anybody else. He needs to be locked in. Or maybe he needs a cause to help him with that.

He will have one Wednesday night. The schedule-makers don’t always get it right, but they did this time – inadvertently.