Team USA basketball vs. Iran score, Tokyo Olympics: Kevin Durant, United States rebound with dominant win

Team USA started off the Olympics on the wrong foot with an 83-76 loss to France, but fortunately, they managed to get back on track Wednesday. Playing against an Iranian team that was technically ahead of them in the Group A standings due to point-differential, the Americans laid the smackdown in a dominant 120-66 victory. The win gets them back to .500, but more importantly, it re-establishes Team USA as the favorites in the Olympics as a whole. 

Damian Lillard led the way 21 points, but virtually everybody contributed to the blowout. Team USA nailed 19 3-pointers in the win as their shooting and athleticism overwhelmed an Iran team that does not feature a current NBA player. They just couldn't overcome the extreme talent deficit they faced in this matchup. 

Team USA will have a chance to secure its place in the knockout stage of the tournament on Saturday when it faces the Czech Republic. Here are three takeaways from the win by Team USA.

1. Team USA played team basketball

Team USA is susceptible to lengthy stretches of isolation basketball. Now, that usually isn't a problem. Having the best players in the world allows American rosters to get away with things most teams couldn't, but that doesn't mean it's ideal. Defenses aren't prepared to stop an offense with as many weapons as Team USA always has, so the best versions of American basketball feature players that are eager to share with their famous teammates. 

NBA teams assisted on just over 60 percent of their baskets during the season, but Team USA blew that figure out of the water against Iran. They made 42 shots against Iran… and assisted on 34 of them. That's an assist rate of over 80 percent, and the best part is, every American except for JaVale McGee had at least one of them. This was a total team effort. 

It helps when you're hitting 19-of-39 3-point attempts, of course, but those mostly weren't off the dribble looks. An American driver sucked the defense into the paint before kicking it out for easy points. It's never going to be easier for players like Damian Lillard. In the NBA, he gets swarmed off of every screen as opponents do everything in their power to slow him down, specifically. Olympic opponents can't do that, and the result was seven 3s for the Blazers star in this blowout. 

2. Defense wins championships

It is very hard to lose a 40-minute game in which you force 23 turnovers. That's a turnover roughly every 104 seconds, and generating that many are only possible through elite defensive athleticism. That's what Team USA has. It may lack the traditional hulking rim-protector teams like France can throw at opponents, but the Americans make up for that with their overwhelming physical advantage. 

Team USA's guards frequently hounded Iranian ball-handlers before they crossed half-court. Iran's drivers, unused to defenders as long and fast as the ones they faced tonight, second-guessed themselves and played indecisive offense. Team USA's switching took away basically any open shots. Iranian center Hamed Haddadi had some success near the basket against those switches with 14 points, but otherwise, Iran was completely stifled. 

This is Team USA's clearest path to victory in the Olympics. Generate turnovers. Score in transition. Prevent opponents from finding easy points there themselves. That is how they can leverage their athletic advantage, and they did so in this win. 

3. Things will only get harder from here

It would be tempting to say that Team USA has figured out its issues and will now waltz to gold, but it's not that simple. Iran is the 23rd-ranked team in the world. That doesn't make them the weakest team in the field, but they are probably the least talented group that Team USA will face the rest of the way. 

The No. 12-ranked Czech Republic is waiting for Team USA on Saturday. If the Americans take care of business in that one, they'll reach the knockout stage. France and Australia, who have already beaten this version of Team USA, will likely be waiting for them there. So will frequent rival Spain, and perhaps most dangerously of all, NBA superstar Luka Doncic and his under-the-radar Slovenian team. 

Team USA will be favored against all of those opponents. None of them will be easy-outs. The win over Iran was encouraging, but a team like that just isn't the sort of opponent that is capable of hanging with a group of NBA All-Stars. It's hard to glean too much from that matchup that might be applicable against the superior opponents that will come. 

Live updates
(71)
See New Posts
Pinned

And that'll do it for us from Tokyo. Team USA closes out the 54-point win, 120-66.

July 28, 2021, 6:22 AM
Pinned

Team USA now has twice as many points as Iran. It's 114-57.

July 28, 2021, 6:17 AM
Pinned

Team USA might really double Iran up here. They're two points away from doing so at the moment.

July 28, 2021, 6:16 AM
Pinned

The only question left is where the final margin falls. Team USA is up 53 after those free throws by LaVine.

July 28, 2021, 6:16 AM
Pinned

And there's the 50-point lead. Team USA is up 51 after that 3-pointer by Tatum.

July 28, 2021, 6:13 AM
Pinned

Draymond Green making 3-pointers is never a good sign for opponents.

July 28, 2021, 6:12 AM
Pinned

Can Team USA push its lead up to 50? They're up 45 now with around four minutes to play.

July 28, 2021, 6:12 AM
Pinned

As they discussed on the broadcast, Keldon Johnson is the fifth-youngest NBA player ever to play for Team USA. This will be an excellent developmental opportunity for him.

July 28, 2021, 6:06 AM
Pinned

Now Jayson Tatum gives Team USA its 17th 3 of the night. My word.

July 28, 2021, 6:03 AM
Pinned

That's Damian Lillard's seventh 3-pointer. If he wants to push for double digits, he can certainly do so.

July 28, 2021, 6:00 AM
Pinned

JaVale McGee hook shots. We've reached "fourth quarter blowout fun time."

July 28, 2021, 5:59 AM
Pinned

Team USA leads 82-43 heading into the fourth quarter, and at this point, all we're watching for is whether or not Kevin Durant can become Team USA's all-time leading scorer.

July 28, 2021, 5:57 AM
Pinned

That's the second open layup Draymond Green has passed up tonight. Again, it won't matter against Iran, but it might against better opponents.

July 28, 2021, 5:56 AM
Pinned

Iran couldn't even get a shot off. That's a shot-clock violation. Team USA just imposing its will at this point.

July 28, 2021, 5:54 AM
Pinned

Middleton for 3. It's 82-38.

July 28, 2021, 5:53 AM
Pinned

Durant with the slam in transition. He's now five points away from Carmelo Anthony's Olympic scoring record for Team USA.

July 28, 2021, 5:52 AM
Pinned

Middleton's 3 makes it a 43-point game. Team USA leads 77-34 in what could be the biggest blowout of this tournament.

July 28, 2021, 5:50 AM
Pinned

Too easy. Team USA pushes the lead up to 40 as an uncontested Khris Middleton grabs Kevin Durant's missed 3 and puts it right back in.

July 28, 2021, 5:49 AM
Pinned
@usabasketball via Twitter
July 28, 2021, 5:47 AM
Pinned

Timeout. Team USA leads 72-34. It looks like this one is in the bag with over 16 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

July 28, 2021, 5:47 AM
Pinned

Bam Adebayo got hit in the face there, but he looks okay.

July 28, 2021, 5:46 AM
Pinned

Team USA's lead is up to a game-high 38 points at 70-32. This is getting ugly.

July 28, 2021, 5:45 AM
Pinned

Probing is so much easier against Iran than it is against NBA defenses. Holiday got all the way to the basket, easily turned around, and hit an uncontested jumper in the paint.

July 28, 2021, 5:45 AM
Pinned

I'll say it again: Kevin Durant is a sorely underrated rim-protector. That is especially true when he isn't protecting it from Giannis Antetokounmpo.

July 28, 2021, 5:43 AM
Pinned

Kevin Durant is now seven points shy of Carmelo Anthony's all-time Team USA scoring record after that 3.

July 28, 2021, 5:42 AM
Pinned

Devin Booker is going to the line for Team USA's first points of the second half.

July 28, 2021, 5:41 AM
Pinned

Booker misses at the buzzer, but Team USA is running away with this thing. It's 60-30 at halftime in favor of the Americans.

July 28, 2021, 5:24 AM
Pinned

Team USA is trying to get fancy now. They just tried to lob an inbounds pass to Durant for the dunk, but the pass was overthrown.

July 28, 2021, 5:23 AM
See More