The gold medal quest continues.
Team USA concluded its three-game Pool A schedule Saturday morning with a 119-84 victory Czech Republic. They advance to a quarterfinal meeting that has yet to be determined.
Here are three observations:
With a second-quarter 3-pointer, Kevin Durant passed Carmelo Anthony as USA Basketball’s all-time leading scorer for men. Durant did so in just his 19th Olympic contest and is vying to tie Anthony’s gold medal haul of three.
For good measure, Durant also became the program’s all-time leader in field goals and free throws. He finished with 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists in a dominant performance.
Durant led a second-quarter charge with not only his offense but his defense. After a slow start in which Blake Schilb, the former All-American at Loyola, continually burned the Americans, Team USA turned up the screws defensively and used sublime ball movement for open 3-pointers. Jayson Tatum, quiet to this point in the tournament, broke out this quarter and finished with a game-high 27 points.
Team USA outscored the Czech Republic 29-18 in the second and 35-17 in the third.
Defense didn’t rest
After a slow start in which Team USA trailed by double digits in the first quarter and by seven after the initial 10 minutes, the defense showed up. By the end of the third quarter, Team USA held a 22-point advantage.
During one third-quarter stretch, Zach LaVine jumped a passing lane for a steal that led to a Devin Booker 3-pointer at the other end. Then Durant blocked a 3-pointer from the top of the key and turned it into free-throw attempts on the ensuing fast break.
Team USA repeatedly harassed the Czech Republic ballhandlers, which included Chicago Bulls guard Tomas Satoransky, forcing them to begin their halfcourt sets with little time left on the shot clock.
In the first quarter, Czech Republic used strong post play from former Wizards big man Jan Vesely and confident shooting from Schilb to build an advantage. But in a halftime interview with NBC Sports, USA Basketball assistant and Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said players had strayed from the game plan and needed to play with more aggression.
Schilb became a non-factor and Czech Republic finished with 15 turnovers. After one fourth-quarter possession in which LaVine forced a turnover with strong post play defense, Team USA coach Gregg Popovich ran down the sideline clapping his hands to praise the Bulls’ All-Star guard.
Both LaVine and Satoransky talked eagerly about facing each other. The good friends and Bulls teammates---for now, as Satoransky faces a Sunday deadline for his partially guaranteed contract---traded baskets against each other during an entertaining second-quarter stretch.
LaVine continued his impactful play in Tokyo. He sank his first two shots, both 3-pointers. That included an acrobatic, off-balance, line-drive 3-pointer as he tried to draw a foul on Schilb as the shot clock expired.
LaVine finished with 13 points and five assists and strong defense.
Satoransky, for his part, is the sole current NBA player on Czech Republic’s roster and is in a do-it-all role. He plays heavy minutes, runs the majority of the offense and finished with 12 points, eight assists and six rebounds.
Standings update: The victory improved USA to 2-1 after pool play and guarantees them a spot in the quarterfinals. Czech Republic dropped to 1-2.