Lillard, USA blow out Iran for first Olympics win


The United States men's basketball team beat Iran 120-66 in the preliminary round of the Tokyo Olympics. Here are five observations from what went down...

First win

After their opening loss to France, their first in the Olympics in 17 years, the United States men's basketball team was in need of a rebound and they found it against the country of Iran. Team USA demolished Team Iran by 54 points, nearly doubling up their score. They shot a scorching 19-for-39 (48.7%) from three while committing only six turnovers, compared to Iran's 23.

Yeah, it was a beatdown, but it figured to be. Iran was only playing in its third Olympics, the other two being 2008 and 1948. And they had to go on a run in the FIBA World Cup to earn a qualifying spot.

This isn't France or Spain, at least not yet. But maybe, just like Nigeria showed in the exhibition schedule, they will be a team worth revisiting in the future, once another generation of young players rises through the ranks.

Damian Lillard popped off for 21 points, Devin Booker had 16 and Jayson Tatum had 14. Kevin Durant and Bam Adebayo each had three blocks. Zach LaVine had eight assists off the bench. Team U.S. shot 17-for-18 from the free throw line.

The United States is now 1-1 in Olympic play, having lost to France and beaten Iran. They play next on Friday against the Czech Republic, which features former Wizards players Tomas Satoransky and Jan Vesely.


Lillard went off

Team USA may not have the long list of legends they have boasted in the past, but they have a ton of talent highlighted by some true NBA superstars, the types which could carry the team offensively on any given night. They didn't need one player to step up like that in this one, but Lillard had his best game yet, going 7-for-13 from three to score his 21 points. 

Yes, Lillard had 21 points in 23 minutes and did not make one two-pointer or a shot from the free throw line. Instead, he fired threes over and over, some of them from deep. He did attempt two shots from two-point range, he just didn't make them. Lillard had 15 points by halftime, as the U.S. led Iran 60-28. 

Iran had some standouts

The score was lopsided and Iran never really had a chance, but a few of their players put up some solid numbers. Hamed Hammadi, the only Iranian-born player in NBA history, had 15 points, six rebounds and a block. Mohammad Jamshidi had 14 points and three assists. And Navid Rezaeifar added 12 points off the bench.

Despite a ton of turnovers, the main players in Iran's rotation were okay. But their lack of depth was exposed, as they had four bench players go a combined 0-for-13 from the field. Team USA's ability to create turnovers allowed their speed to take over in the open court and Iran was overwhelmed.

JaVale, the PG

There was a fun moment during garbage time as 7-foot center JaVale McGee grabbed a rebound with about a minute-and-a-half to go and took it all the way for a layup on the other end. He dribbled the ball coast-to-coast, went right and sank a running hookshot high off the glass. 

McGee had nine points on 4-for-6 shooting with two steals and a block. He played 12 minutes in a relatively limited role, but made it count. Take that, anyone who was laughing at his inclusion on the team. 

Next one is big

With the U.S. playing the Czech Republic on Friday, the stakes will increase. The U.S. can punch their ticket to the single-elimination quarterfinal round with a win. For comparison, the Czechs narrowly beat Iran, 84-78, in their opening game.

USA is now tied with Germany and Australia at 1-1, though in different groups for the first round. They both lost to Italy, the only team off to a 2-0 start. The U.S. is only scheduled to play the Czech Republic before the quarterfinals begin, but could run into one of those teams if they advance.