By Omar Mohammed SAITAMA, Japan (Reuters) -The United States got back on track in their quest for a fourth consecutive men’s basketball gold medal on Wednesday with a 54 point blowout win against Iran buoyed by a barrage of three pointers, putting their shock loss to France behind them. Guard Damian Lillard was sizzling hot […]
Olympics-Basketball-US men get back on track with blow-out win against Iran
By Omar Mohammed
SAITAMA, Japan (Reuters) -The United States got back on track in their quest for a fourth consecutive men’s basketball gold medal on Wednesday with a 54 point blowout win against Iran buoyed by a barrage of three pointers, putting their shock loss to France behind them.
Guard Damian Lillard was sizzling hot to begin the game as he hit six threes in the first half, helping the United States shoot 63% from beyond the arc as they built a commanding 60-30 lead and came away with a 120-66 victory.
Lillard, who plays for the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, finished with a game high 21 points, with the United States ending up with 19 threes for the game.
The dominant win will allay concerns about their medal credentials in Tokyo after they suffered a shock defeat by France on Sunday, losing at the Olympics for the first time since 2004 and for just the sixth time in the history of the tournament.
But they righted the ship on Wednesday.
Stout defense and sweet shooting catapulted them to victory, as they forced turnovers and held Iran’s best player, guard Behnam Yakhchalidehkordi, to only six points, a far cry from his sensational performance from his team’s first game when he had a game high 23 points.
Lillard told reporters after the game that the team’s defensive urgency and competitiveness allowed them to get easy baskets on the offensive end.
“We used our length and our athleticism and our talent,” he added. “If we play the way we played tonight, we’ve got a great chance to accomplish the goal we set out before coming here.”
U.S. coach Gregg Popovich also commended his team’s defence.
“We played good defense for a long period of time, shared the ball throughout the game very, very, well, against a very hard-working Iranian team,” he said.
Kevin Durant, who was saddled with foul trouble in the game against France, bounced back with a terrific all around performance finishing with 10 points, five rebounds, five assists, two steals, three blocks and zero turnovers.
“He is Kevin Durant, you expect him to be able to bounce back and that’s what he did,” said Lillard.
Durant’s great execution was epitomised in one possession midway through the third quarter when he blocked a shot, retrieved possession and threw a pass to a running Bam Adebayo for a dunk.
Iran were again their own worst enemy, sloppy with the ball and committing 23 turnovers that resulted in 37 U.S. points.
The United States next play against the Czech Republic on Saturday, while Iran face France on the same day.
In the earlier tip-off, Germany beat Nigeria 99-92, pulling away in the fourth quarter to register their first win of the tournament helped by balanced scoring led by big man Johannes Voigtmann’s 19 points and 7 rebounds performance.
The Germans had five players score in double figures and withstood an explosive game from Nigeria forward Jordan Nwora, who put up a game high 33 points.
The win revived Germany’s hopes of qualifying for the next phase of the tournament.
The next group B matches are on Saturday, with Germany playing Australia while Nigeria will face-off against Italy.
The games are currently in the group stage made up of three groups of four teams each. First and second place teams from each group automatically go through to the knock-out phase, while the two best third-placed teams will also advance.
(Reporting by Omar MohammedEditing by Shri Navaratnam/Peter Rutherford)