Veterans get job done

Kevin Durant, the top scorer with 30 points, reacting after a dunk, as Serbia's Marko Simonovic shows his frustration in the final. The gold was the US' 46th and final one in Rio.
Kevin Durant, the top scorer with 30 points, reacting after a dunk, as Serbia's Marko Simonovic shows his frustration in the final. The gold was the US' 46th and final one in Rio.PHOTO: REUTERS

Returnees Anthony and Durant pack punch as US hammer Serbs for third straight gold

RIO DE JANEIRO • On a team of mostly first-time young Olympians, it was the veterans Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant who stole the Rio show as the United States won their third straight men's basketball gold.

Anthony on Sunday became the first man to collect three basketball golds, a week after he became the US' all-time Olympics scorer, surpassing National Basketball Association superstar LeBron James.

But Durant, the only other player besides Anthony to return after the 2012 London Games, provided a big assist by unleashing his potent offensive punch to clinch the title.

The newly assembled team they led were occasionally challenged in Rio, raising some doubts about the outcome. But not in the minds of the US players, said Durant.

"We got together on July 17 and we set our minds on winning the gold medal. That was our main focus, Carmelo being the leader and me kind of following up," he said.

Anthony, 32, brought the experience, and Durant, 27, the scoring as the US capped their 2016 Olympic run by mauling Serbia 96-66.

Anthony was on the 2004 team who settled for bronze, a hard-to-swallow result that sparked a re-organisation of the US programme.

"It's really hard to understand it and have a feeling about it when you're going through it," he said of his four Olympic appearances for the US, also a men's record.

"Not until you have some time to yourself, you get a chance to reflect back on this journey starting back in 2004 up until now. I don't think I can explain how I feel right at this moment."

Still a top NBA scoring threat with the New York Knicks, he finished as the US' second-highest scorer at the Games with 12.1 points per game, after Durant's 19.4.

His offence was critical in a group-stage contest against Australia - who had four NBA champion players on their roster and were the first team in Rio to threaten to stage an upset.

But Anthony stepped up with a game-high 30 points against the Australians, including 14 in the fourth quarter to help lock the game down.

He will not go for a fourth gold, however. "As much as I'm going to miss it, it's time to pass it on to some of the guys who were here and some of the younger guys that are coming along," he said.

Durant, who is headed to the Golden State Warriors, scored 30 points on a series of highlight-reel plays on Sunday to ignite the Serbia rout. He admitted that he was trying to be too unselfish in earlier games.

"Coach (Mike Krzyzewski) sat me down and showed me some film of 2010 and he said, 'I want to see that guy again'," Durant said.

"I was trying too hard to sacrifice and make that extra pass, and I was taken away from my game. But coach just told me to be me and I went out there and I did that."

It was Krzyzewski's last game leading the US. The Duke University coach, a five-time National Collegiate Athletic Association title winner, will hand over to San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

Krzyzewski praised Anthony and Durant for their long-term commitment to the US team.

"It sets the example for a younger generation in the United States to where now everybody is proud of USA basketball. It's not just how they play, but how they acted and how unselfish they were," he said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 23, 2016, with the headline 'Veterans get job done'. Print Edition | Subscribe