RIO DE JANEIRO — They weren’t the Dream Team, or even the Redeem Team – not even close.
But by the time Team USA’s 96-66 win against Serbia was complete on Sunday and the mission for the third consecutive gold medal was complete, only one thing mattered more than all the comparisons that always inevitably come: this team kept the Team USA reputation intact.
Twelve years after their bronze finish in the Athens Games sparked so much change in the national program, and a decade after a bronze finish in the FIBA World Championship in Japan had Mike Krzyzewski’s tenure as Team USA coach off to an inauspicious start, their run of perfection continues. With the win, Team USA — this 2016 version that was led by Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Paul George and all the rest — has won 52 consecutive games in FIBA play (24 in the Olympics).
Krzyzewski, the Duke legend who was hired by program head Jerry Colangelo in 2005, is now officially retired from the national team and will make way for the San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich in 2020. He finishes with a 59-1 mark overall, his lone loss coming against Greece in those 2006 Worlds that led to the bronze finish.Carmelo Anthony, the New York Knicks star who already took over the all-time Team USA lead in scoring, becomes the first American player to win a third gold.
In a rematch of their Aug. 12 pool play game in which they won by just three points, Team USA wasted little time pulling away in this one. After leading by one late in the first quarter, they finished the first half on a 36-14 run and led 52-29 at halftime.
The Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant, who helped Team USA win gold in the 2012 London Olympics but missed the 2014 FIBA World Cup gold in order to rest and recover, was in vintage form from the start. He finished with 30 points, 24 coming in the first half on nine of 14 shooting (five of eight on threes), with the Sacramento Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins adding 11 points and 12 rebounds before the break.