Team USA punched its ticket to the knockout stage at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with a dominant 119-84 win over the Czech Republic on Saturday. The win was the second straight for the U.S., as they also defeated Iran after dropping their Olympic opener to France. Team USA will now get an opportunity to move on and continue to compete for their fourth straight gold medal.
Jayson Tatum had his best showing of the Olympics so far, and he led the U.S. with 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the floor. Kevin Durant also added 23 points (on 8-of-11 shooting) to go along with eight rebounds and six assists for the United States and Zach LaVine had 13 points and five assists.
As a team, the U.S. shot a scorching 62 percent from the field and 48 percent from long range over the course of the contest, and ultimately their hot shooting, combined with some tenacious defense (they forced 15 turnovers), proved to be too much for the Czech Republic to overcome. Blake Schilb paced the Czechs with 17 points and five rebounds, while Jan Vesely added 13 points, four assists and three rebounds of his own.
After losing their first game to France, the U.S. has won its last two games by a combined 89 points, and the team appears poised to make a real run at gold. Now that they've moved on, the United States' next opponent will be determined by a draw on Sunday. Before moving ahead though, here's a look at three key takeaways from the United States' win over the Czech Republic.
1. Durant becomes Team USA's all-time leading Olympic scorer
Kevin Durant is arguably one of the best scorers in NBA history, and now he's also the most prolific scorer in United States Olympic men's basketball history. With his point production against the Czech Republic on Saturday, Durant moved past Carmelo Anthony to become the U.S.'s all-time leading scorer. Anthony, who scored a total of 336 points in Olympic play, now drops to second on the list behind Durant, while LeBron James sits at third with 273 points.
Durant passed Anthony with this pull-up 3-pointer from the top of the key midway through the second quarter:
Durant didn't stop once he set the record though, as he continued to rain down silky smooth jumpers on the Czechs. In all, Durant needed only 11 shot attempts to score 23 points to help propel the U.S. to the knockout round.
At halftime of the game, U.S. assistant coach Steve Kerr said that Durant is the "most talented player in the world." After watching him torch the Czech Republic and become the U.S.'s all-time leading scorer in the process, it's tough to disagree with him.
2. Jayson Tatum had his best game of the Olympics
Durant got things rolling in the first half for the U.S., but Jayson Tatum really took over in the second half and secured the victory. Tatum had his best game of the Olympics so far, as he finished with a team-high 27 points (on just 16 shots), and he hit five of his six 3-point attempts.
So, what did United States coach Gregg Popovich say to unlock such a productive performance from Tatum?
"I told Jayson to act like he's playing the Spurs," Popovich said after the game. "Every time he plays us he scores like 90."
Now, that's some solid coaching.
3. The U.S. completely dominated the second half
You wouldn't know it based on the final score, but this game was actually close throughout the first 20 minutes of action. The Czech Republic actually led the game 25-18 after the first quarter, and at halftime, the U.S. only led by four points. But, in the second half, Team USA blew it wide open. The Americans outscored the Czechs 35-17 in the third quarter, and then 37-24 in the final quarter to secure the dominant victory. In all, the U.S. outscored the Czech Republic 72-41 in the second half.
🇺🇸 @usabasketball outscores Czech Republic 72-41 in the 2nd half to pick up the W and advance to the Quarterfinals!#USABMNT: 119— NBA (@NBA) July 31, 2021
Czech Republic: 84
Kevin Durant: 23 PTS, 9 REB, 6 AST
Jayson Tatum: 27 PTS, 5 3PM
Zach LaVine: 13 PTS, 3 3PM#Tokyo2020 #Basketball pic.twitter.com/J2ywNIk6F5
The Czech Republic may not be the best defensive team in the Olympics, but scoring 72 points in 20 minutes against anyone is pretty impressive. The 3-point line was a huge factor for the U.S. in the win, as they were able to knock down 20 shots from beyond the arc compared to the eight that the Czechs made. That's a 36-point advantage from beyond the arc for the U.S. in a game they won by 35. If they're able to continue to shoot like that, it will be tough for anyone to take down Team USA.