Rio 2016: Kevin Durant stars as ‘excellent’ USA basketball roll over China

The United States rocked China 106-57 on Sunday in a pre-Olympic warm-up match in Los Angeles, with Kevin Durant leading the way with 19 points.

USA player Kevin Durant shown in action against China in a pre-Olympics warm-up match on Sunday. Mike Nelson / EPA / July 24, 2016
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Just two games into the United States basketball team’s pre-Olympic tour, coach Mike Krzyzewski already sees the start of something big.

Kevin Durant scored 19 points, Klay Thompson added 17 and the Americans rolled to a second straight blowout friendly victory, 106-57 over China on Sunday night.

DeMar DeRozan scored 13 points in his hometown Los Angeles, and DeMarcus Cousins had 12 points and seven rebounds in the second stop on the five-city tour leading the Americans to Rio de Janeiro. The victory against overmatched opponents was impressive, but Krzyzewski liked it more for the composed, cohesive manner in which the new teammates worked together.

“We should have won, but the way we won was excellent,” Krzyzewski said. “We’re really growing together as a group.”

After opening their showcase tour by trouncing Argentina in Las Vegas on Friday night, the US team posted another rout at a packed Staples Center. Krzyzewski is finding it difficult to disguise his early optimism, praising his team’s work in their brief practice time together.

And while they’re still learning their teammates’ tendencies and solidifying player rotations, the US looked remarkably connected for long stretches against China, who have no current NBA players, though they do boast 2016 draft picks Zhou Qi (Houston Rockets) and Wang Zhelin (Memphis Grizzlies).

Durant noticed it, as did Los Angeles Clippers centre DeAndre Jordan, who kicked off the festivities by blocking a shot on China’s first possession and throwing down an alley-oop dunk on the Americans’ first possession.

“We’ve only been together a week, but it seems like we’ve been teammates for years,” Jordan said.

Jordan scored 12 points and led a strong defensive effort with three blocks for the Americans, who held the Chinese to 30.9 per cent shooting. Krzyzewski believes the Americans will excel at defensive switching because of an abundance of versatile players.

“I think we’re learning more about one another, and our defence was there pretty much the whole game,” Krzyzewski said.

The US haven't lost a game since the 2006 world championships, winning 65 straight games. They're 47-1 in exhibitions since NBA stars took over the squad in 1992 with the famous "Dream Team", going undefeated since 2004.

While LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kawhi Leonard all declined the chance to play in Rio, the Americans who accepted the opportunity appear to be serious about winning without some of the nation’s top stars.

“We’re young, but we’ve got a bunch of seasoned pros,” said Kyrie Irving, who had 10 points and four assists. “We’ve been on a lot of journeys, and we’ve crossed paths before, but now we’re all coming together at the right time.”

Four-time Olympian Carmelo Anthony was the only holdover in the Americans’ starting line-up from Las Vegas while Krzyzewski works on chemistry and coordination. He put Paul George in with the starters alongside Anthony, Jordan, Kyle Lowry and DeRozan, whose family watched from courtside.

Both teams had early shooting struggles, but the Americans took charge with impressive speed late in the first quarter.

Durant, one of the two returning American gold medallists from London, heard boos from the LA crowd during pre-game introductions after somewhat unpopularly signing with the Golden State Warriors this summer. He quickly found his outside stroke with 14 points and four assists in the first half, and Cousins overpowered the Chinese down low for 12 first-half points on the way to a 55-29 half-time lead.

The Chinese team’s most recognisable name to North Americans is Yi Jianlian, the Milwaukee Bucks’ choice with the No 6 overall pick in the 2007 draft. He spent five seasons with four NBA teams before heading back to the Guangdong Southern Tigers.

Yi led the Chinese with 18 points. Zhou Qi, the 7ft 2in centre taken by the Rockets in the second round of the draft last month, scored two points on 1-for-6 shooting. Exciting guard Zhao Jiwei of the Liaoning Flying Leopards scored 14 points.

The teams meet again Tuesday in Oakland, where Durant will play in front of his new home fans for the first time since defecting from Oklahoma City to the Golden State earlier this month.

They’ll also meet August 6 in the opening game of Olympic competition in Brazil.

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