Prior to the 119-62 win against China on Saturday in Team USA’s opening game of the 2016 Games, six players had never played an official international game.
Any concern regarding a lack of international experience or cohesion among the players was certainly quelled with the emphatic victory as the U.S. vies for a third-straight Olympic gold medal.
‘We played really hard and we shared the ball,’ U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said. ‘In the third quarter, on every bucket we made, it was assisted. If we keep playing hard and keep sharing the ball, I think we’re going to get better.’
The U.S. had 31 assists on 38 baskets against China to showcase its team-first mentality.
Durant’s 25 points led four players in double-digits, while Anthony had nine points and seven rebounds.
Anthony, the first American man to participate in four Olympics, is on the verge of becoming USA’s all-time leading Olympic scorer. His 248 points in his Olympic career trails Michael Jordan (256), David Robinson (270) and LeBron James (273) on the all-time list.
‘Carmelo has four Olympics of experience,’ Krzyzewski said. ‘I’m proud of him. He’s been a selfless leader and the guys respect Carmelo.’
While Anthony, who on Saturday tied James and Robinson for most Olympic games played for the U.S. with 24, is the most experienced player on Team USA’s roster, he certainly doesn’t see himself as the face of the Olympic men’s basketball team.
‘I try not to think like that,’ he said before the Olympics. ‘I think I’m a big part of USA Basketball, but as far as being the face, that’s a lot of pressure.’
Having a supporting cast littered with NBA All-Stars certainly helps alleviate that pressure of having to be the go-to guy for Team USA.
Center DeMarcus Cousins had 17 points and five rebounds Saturday. Paul George, who was making his U.S. national team debut, had 15 points. Guard Kyrie Irving scored 12 points on four 3-pointers in the third quarter.
The U.S. also showcased its defensive prowess by forcing 24 turnovers and holding China to 36 percent from the field and 29 percent on 3-pointers.
‘That’s our identity — defense first,’ Cousins said. ‘That’s something that’s preached daily and it’s something we accept. That’s how we get the game rolling. That’s how we get our energy.’
If the United States continues to play like it did Saturday, it’s how Team USA will win another gold medal.