Russia gave it a go but it’s onto the next round for Team USA at the 2010 FIBA World Championship after an 89-79 win.
Kevin Durant did the heavy lifting with 33 points — there’s not a team in the tournament that has an answer to Durant’s combination of length, athleticism and deep shooting range — but it was Russell Westbrook’s sterling second half that allowed Team USA to break the game open, and we won’t forget Lamar Odom’s active play.
Westbrook finished with 12 points and perhaps more importantly three steals. He was disruptive on the perimeter and used his quickness as an advantage in shooting through passing lanes.
Odom played equally well, although he’s unlikely he’ll grab headlines.
Against a Russian squad with a lot of size, Odom did what he had to do in terms of defending the paint and pulled down 12 rebounds, which led the team by a long shot. The Russians actually won the rebounding battle 37-33.
But in earning a win and clinching a semifinal game against either Lithuania or Argentina, Team USA showed it can win a game when it’s at a size disadvantage.
Its semifinal game Saturday will be no walkover, but looking ahead, there’s no reason the Americans won’t be favored in every game, even if they draw homestanding Turkey (it plays Serbia in the other semifinal) in the finals.
The only thing that will keep the Americans from winning this thing is a really poor shooting game, which would negate its athletic advantage.
But Kevin Durant showed against Russia, as if he hasn’t proven it in the NBA, that he can carry the team if need be. Chalk us up as believers that Team USA clinches its spot in the 2012 Olympics by winning this tournament.