Not long after beating China in an exhibition game, Team USA, the 2016 Olympic version of the Dream Team, had no problem handling their first opponent en route to a third consecutive gold medal, winning 119-62, led by Kevin Durant.
Durant scored 25 points, starting next to Golden State Warriors teammate Klay Thompson, who finished with just 2 points on 1-for-6 from the field. DeMarcus Cousins felt quite comfortable, finishing with 17 points, starting point guard Kyrie Irving added 12 points, and Carmelo Anthony, on his fourth Olympic venture, added 9 points. Paul George, playing 18 minutes off the bench, scored 15 points. Durant was the only player with more than 20 minutes (playing just over 22), and the shortest time anyone got on the floor was Harrison Barnes, scoring 8 points in 12 minutes.
Anthony, 32, tied both LeBron James and David Robinson with his 24th appearance in an Olympic basketball game. He’ll become the first three-time men’s basketball gold medalist if the US win gold at the end of this tournament. Their start isn’t very difficult, with Venezuela coming up after China. He shot 1-for-3 from beyond and the arc, and there was no need to do better than the 37% the USA shot against China, the Asian champions, but nowhere good enough to present any kind of problem.
The first quarter ended in a 30-10 lead, and it just got worse from there for the Chinese. Both DeAndre Jordan (7 points and 7 rebounds in 13 minutes) and DeMar DeRozan (6 points in 17 minutes) were looking to impress the fans in attendance, with the best dunks of the night. DeRozan was the best performer on that account during the round of exhibition games before taking off to Brazil, and both he and Jordan seem focused on leaving their mark that way.
The most dominant side of this team is their defense. While their offense is obviously a level or two better than anyone else’s, it’s their ability to press the entire floor and completely make the paint impregnable for teams of China’s caliber, and that’s not on a team filled with defensive specialists, at least not on an NBA level. But the advantage in size, length and athleticism is simply too much for most teams. China shot just 35.7% from the field, turned the ball over 24 times, and had just one player, Yi Jianlian, in double figures. The former NBA player scored 25 points.
It doesn’t matter that players like LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Chris Paul, among other stars, didn’t want to make the trip. Just like the world championships, the depth of this team is incomprehensible for those who don’t follow the NBA closely. The USA could probably field three teams to take gold, silver and bronze. Their perfection and complacency could be tested against more difficult opponents, but for now, it’s smooth sailing, and perhaps it’ll be for the rest of this tournament.