At one point in the third quarter, as Team USA was already commanding an insurmountable lead, Kevin Durant got the ball in transition. He looked briefly towards the rim, perhaps envisioning yet another smooth, vicious jumper to further demoralize Serbia. However—instead of taking his own shot—he deftly flipped it to newest teammate Klay Thompson, who had parked himself in the corner of the court.
Just like that, we got yet another glance into the budding chemistry that Durant, Klay, and too a much lesser extent (more on this later) Draymond Green have been building over the past month or so playing for Team USA. And, just like that, the NBA and the basketball community at large had to take a step back, shake their heads, and cower before the inevitable onslaught of ball movement, long range shooting, and basketball smarts that is about to consume the league.
The final score, a 96-66 USA victory, only told half the story. Team USA—much maligned for their shoddy makeup and lack of ball movement—finally found a groove, mostly on the strength of Durant’s brilliant 30 point game. At one point in the second quarter, Paul George drove towards the hoop, kicked it out to Kyrie Irving, who whipped it to Klay, who kicked it to Durant, kicked it to Carmelo Anthony (playing decoy in the corner), who finally threw it back to Durant for the no-question-about-it three pointer. It was the first true evidence of chemistry and ball movement that we’ve seen from this US squad. On the play, they looked downright...Warriorsy.
THIS is the United States that we all expected to see the entire tournament pic.twitter.com/KxMO2QdJwn— Around The League™ (@RTSportsTalk) August 21, 2016
It doesn’t seem so crazy when you think about it. Ball movement = easy shots. Don’t go the iso route and try to beast dudes all by yourself. Wars and games are won by teams and armies. Working together, we can be better than the sum of our parts, etc etc, you know the general platitudes. But team chemistry and ball movement were the themes of the day—along with Durant’s monstrous 30 points—as the Americans finally proved that they were worthy to claim their place alongside other illustrious Team USA squads that have won gold in Olympics past.
On a different note: At one point it seemed that Draymond Green would not see action. He was parked on the bench and seemed destined to ride it out there. So... What’s the deal? Is it because of the pic? You know, that pic? It’s cuz of the pic, huh?
Yeah, it’s definitely cuz of the pic.
My dad just now: "Why not put Draymond in? See if he can kick someone in the nuts, just for old times sake, huh?"— Bram Kincheloe (@BramKincheloe) August 21, 2016
However, with a few minutes remaining in a game that had long ago been decided— and after fans had already started a “Draymond!!” chant—Coack K finally allowed Draymond to see the light of day.
Somehow Draymond became the fan favorite.— Ann Killion (@annkillion) August 21, 2016
Another small tidbit: I know we shouldn't care, but the controversy surrounding Harrison Barnes’ poor play and undeserved spot on this team continued to be a strangely swirling situation.
this harrison barnes shit reminds me of when bands tell people they can sit in then never call them onstage— ☕netw3rk (@netw3rk) August 21, 2016
“Oh, so you were like the Christian Laettner of 2016.”— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) August 21, 2016
More importantly, and beyond all the strange subplots surrounding this squad, Durant and the rest of Team USA walked away from Rio with their heads held high and gold medals clinched between their teeth. It might not have been pretty, and the future of the program might seem a little up in the air as Coach K steps down and Gregg Popovich steps into his place, but at least they performed at a high level when the stakes were truly important. They held a talented Serbian team to 66 points and 38% shooting. When the going got rough, the Americans turned everything up a notch, clamped down on defense, and rampaged their way through the knockout round en route to a third consecutive gold.
Very few players get a chance to represent their country on such a stage. Sometimes we take it for granted that a team stacked with NBA All Stars will stomp all over their international competition. Or, we take it for granted that the players don’t care as much about a gold medal as, say, an NBA championship. Just look at how Stephen Curry and LeBron James both individually decided to skip this year’s games. But it does matter. It matters to the players. Just look at the their faces. Just listen to Carmelo Anthony talk about how much it meant to him to represent the United States of America these past three Olympics.
Carmelo Anthony: CAPTAIN AMERICA FOREVER pic.twitter.com/hBvI4RATT8— Rob Perez (@WorId_Wide_Wob) August 21, 2016
I mean, heck, even Harrison Barnes scored a bucket near the end of the game! Everyone goes home happy. Everyone on Team USA goes home a champion. I for one, enjoyed watching this team.
Now, BRING ON THE REGULAR SEASON!