Kevin Durant said Team USA have "got to finish it" after battling past Spain to reach the Olympic semi-finals.

The Brooklyn Nets star poured in a team-high 29 points as the United States won 95-81 at the Saitama Super Arena, bolstering their gold medal hopes.

It was far from an easy assignment, and nor was it always entirely convincing from the US team, who trailed 39-29 with 3:25 of the second quarter remaining.

They rallied impressively, however, to draw level at 43-43 at the halfway point, and Spain never led again.

"We started making shots there in the second quarter. Once we see that ball going into the rim, that put all of us at ease," Durant said.

"Our defence was a little better, a little tighter, we rebounded better after that. And guys just got more comfortable shooting the basketball.

"We drove it to the rim at the end of that second and were able to get our rhythm back a little bit. I like how we played in that second quarter, from the end of the second quarter all the way to finish the game, and that's how we're gonna need to play going forward.

"It was a huge boost. We didn't want to go into the half down double digits. We knew we didn't want to get down big against this team."

Ricky Rubio plundered 38 points for Spain, with the Minnesota Timberwolves man shooting 13-of-20 from the field. That gave him the highest score by a Spain men's player in an Olympic game, beating the 37 points that Pau Gasol scored against China in 2004.

Rubio also drained four of his seven shots from three-point range, the same as Durant, but USA's 22-6 run at the start of the third quarter took the game away from Spain.

The Spaniards briefly got back to just four points behind, in the early moments of the fourth quarter, yet despite their overall 42-32 dominance on the boards, they were found wanting elsewhere.

USA coach Gregg Popovich said: "I feel great about the victory knowing full well there is a lot of work to be done. We played a terrific basketball team.

"To play that team and go down by nine or 10 and stay in and find a way to win is very satisfying."

Durant feels the team are ready to step up a level, now they are through to the final four.

The pre-Olympics defeats to Australia and Nigeria no longer matter, nor does the loss to France in the Tokyo 2020 group stage.

"I love how we stuck with it throughout this whole period of time and guys started figuring out what we need to do," Durant said.

"You've just got to finish it. We're supposed to be here. For us it's about getting a gold."

Kevin Durant believes Jayson Tatum will eventually claim the Team USA points record he just took from Carmelo Anthony.

In scoring 23 points in the United States' 119-84 win over the Czech Republic – a victory that secured their progression to the quarter-finals at Tokyo 2020 – Durant reached 354 in Olympic play.

He is now past Anthony (336) and will expect to stretch his advantage in pursuit of a third Games gold.

The three-pointer that took Durant to new heights gave Team USA their first lead midway through the second quarter, with the Brooklyn Nets forward leading his country's recovery from a slow start.

Tatum took control thereafter, though, finishing on a game-high 27 points.

The 23-year-old is appearing at his first Games but has 50 points through three appearances, prompting Durant to make a bold claim.

Appearing alongside Tatum in a post-game interview, Durant said: "This guy to the left, I think he's going to be the next one to break that record."

 

Tatum boosted his total with five-for-10 three-point shooting, as the United States made 20 shots from deep – tied for their third-most in an Olympic game.

Coach Gregg Popovich said of Tatum: "Obviously he's more confident but he makes better choices, decision-making wise.

"He attacks for himself and for a team-mate at the same time, and he didn't do that in the very beginning in the league; he was just a scorer.

"But now he's valuable because he does the other things. He's starting to rebound better. We're telling him that it's important, we're not that big and we do need him on the boards."

In the same news conference, Durant was asked again about his achievement in surpassing Anthony.

"You just think about all the players that played in this programme and [it is] pretty cool to be among names like that," he said.

"Carmelo is a guy that I played on two Olympic teams with and I've seen his approach to these games and I try to steal some of his techniques and approach.

"It's still pretty weird for me to do stuff like this because I play a team sport and I try my hardest to make it about the group.

"But it is special to do something like that and scoring is something that I've worked on my whole career and something that I've expanded my whole career, and to consistently do it is pretty cool."

"It's time to start looking like Team USA." That was the approach after a shock opening Olympics loss, Damian Lillard said, and the Games favourites delivered on Wednesday.

France had upset the United States in their first game, following up a 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup quarter-final triumph against the same opponents.

It was a defeat that will ensure doubts remain about Team USA's title aspirations for some time, but they at least got back to winning ways against modest opponents in Iran.

Lillard led the way in Wednesday's stand-out game, scoring 21 points in a dominant 120-66 success.

"I think after our loss to France we had two days between games and everybody just wanted to get back out there and get right," the Portland Trail Blazers guard said. "After that loss, we came together."

Lillard added of the Iran game: "I think we came out with a lot more urgency. Our energy was higher, we played at a faster pace. We were more aggressive, and we played like ourselves.

"We didn't come out here and think that it was just going to happen; we made it happen, and that's the way that we've got to play if we want to be successful in these Olympics."

'WE DON'T NEED HEROES'

Lillard's game-high tally – consisting entirely of seven three-pointers – was still significantly down on the 28.8 he averaged in the 2020-21 NBA regular season.

But that is exactly what coach Gregg Popovich wants from his team, knowing Devin Booker (16 points on Wednesday, 25.6 in the NBA), Jayson Tatum (14, 26.4), Zach LaVine (13, 27.4), Kevin Durant (10, 26.9) and Khris Middleton (10, 20.4) cannot all be the main men.

"Each of these guys scores 20 or 25 or 30 for their teams, and their teams depend on that every night," Popovich said. "We can't play like that, and so we don't.

"They appreciate each other and they know what their team-mates can do. They understand that good basketball is sharing the basketball.

"Everybody's, in a sense, kind of a role player now. We don't need heroes."

FRANCE TAKE TOP SPOT

Les Bleus built on their victory over Team USA and will now top Pool A ahead of the American side thanks to a 97-77 defeat of the Czech Republic.

France trailed 28-22 through the first quarter but turned the game around with a dominant second, settled 29-12 in their favour.

As against the United States, Evan Fournier topped the scoring charts, weighing in with 21 points on 62 per cent shooting.

BOOMERS BIGS WIN BATTLE

Australia also have two wins from two after edging Italy 86-83 on Wednesday, led by the frontcourt contributions of Jock Landale and Aron Baynes.

Landale led the Boomers with 18 points, but the pair crucially also finished with seven rebounds and a block apiece. Between them, they accounted for nine of the team's 16 vital offensive rebounds – Nick Kay added another four from the bench.

"Our bigs were huge today," said Utah Jazz wing Joe Ingles. "The rebounds, tip-outs – they got us a ton of extra possessions."

Elsewhere in Pool B, Nigeria's pre-tournament optimism might have given way after a second straight defeat that gives them a mountain to climb.

D'Tigers beat Team USA and Argentina in exhibitions but lost to Australia and then, on Wednesday, Germany – a 99-92 reverse despite 33 points from Jordan Nwora, fresh from playing a fringe role in the Milwaukee Bucks' run to the NBA title, including one minute and three points in the Finals.

United States men's basketball coach Gregg Popovich insists his side's defeat to France in their first outing at Tokyo 2020 should not be considered a surprise result.

Team USA have won gold in the last three Games, but they saw a 25-game winning streak in the tournament come to an end on Sunday against an inspired France side.

Les Blues, who also beat a much-fancied USA in the World Cup quarter-finals in 2019, are ranked seventh in the FIBA rankings but proved too strong for the world's top team with an 83-76 win at the Saitama Super Arena.

Despite his side's long unbeaten run in the competition coming to an end, Popovich – taking charge at his first Games – was quick to put the loss into some perspective.

"People shouldn't be surprised that we lost to the French team or the Australian team or the Spanish team or the Lithuanian team," he told reporters. 

"It doesn't matter who it is – the gap in talent shrinks every year, as there are more and more great players all over the world. 

"And you need to give the French team credit for playing well. They were more consistent than we were at both ends of the court. It's as simple as that."

 

STARS ALIGN FOR HISTORY-MAKING ZOLOTIC

Sunday was a positive day on the whole for Team USA – especially compared to Saturday, when they failed to win a medal on the opening day of a Games for the first time since Munich 1972 – as they picked up four gold, two silver and four bronze.

That haul includes a maiden gold in the women's taekwondo thanks to teenager Anastasija Zolotic, who beat Tatiana Minina of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) in the final of the -57kg weight category event. 

"My eight-year-old self was running around the schoolyard saying I was going to be Olympic champion but she could never have imagined what this moment is like," Zolotic said. 

"It's unbelievable. It really hasn't sunk in yet. I can't believe it. I'm in a bit of shock. I'm just trying to wrap my head around it. It feels wonderful. I came here confident and ready to take the gold. The stars were aligned."

Zolotic's win came on the back of two-time Olympic champion Jade Jones suffering a shock elimination to Refugee Olympic Team member Kimia Alizadeh in the last 16, denying the Team GB athlete a shot of winning a historic third gold.

 

BILES BOUNCES BACK, CHUSOVITINA WAVES GOODBYE

A lot of focus has been on Simone Biles heading into the Games, though she had a rare off day as the USA finished behind ROC in the women's gymnastics qualifying.

Biles, who won four golds and a bronze in Rio, was penalised on both floor and vault but still scored a respectable 14.166 to book a spot in the final.

While Biles still has time on her side, both in Tokyo and in the long term, the 2020 Games will be the last for Uzbekistan's Oksana Chusovitina, who bowed out on Sunday after a record-setting eighth appearance at the Olympics.

Chusovitina, at the age of 46, just missed out on qualifying for the vault event and was given a standing ovation by the small number of people inside the arena.

To put Chusovitina's remarkable run of appearances into perspective, she made her debut at the Games in 1992, some five years before Biles was born.

"It was really nice. I cried tears of happiness because so many people have supported me for a long time," she said. "I didn't look at the results, but I feel very proud and happy. I'm saying goodbye to sports. It's kind of mixed feelings.

"I'm alive, I'm happy, I'm here without any injuries, and I can stand on my own."

KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY

Japanese pair Uta and Hifumi Abe made Olympic history as they became the first siblings to win gold medals on the same day of a Games in an individual sport, both enjoying success in judo on day two in Tokyo.

Uta won the women’s 52kg competition, defeating France's Amandine Buchard. A closely contested bout went to a golden score, with Abe crucially claiming ippon to settle the final in her favour.

The two-time world champion cried tears of joy in the aftermath, admitting: "I don't know, maybe it may not have been appropriate but I couldn't hold myself back."

Older brother Hifumi made it a family double, overcoming Vazha Margvelashvili of Georgia to triumph in the men's 66kg final.

"This has turned out to be the greatest day ever," he said. "I don't think we, as brother and sister, could shine any brighter on this stage known as the Tokyo Olympics. I'm so happy."

 

Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich is confident his side is getting better after responding to rare back-to-back losses with a 108-80 win over Argentina on Tuesday.

The gold medal favourite's preparations ahead of the Tokyo Olympics were shaken up after consecutive exhibition game defeats to Australia and Nigeria.

But the Americans were much improved 12 days out from their Olympics opener, led by Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal who both had 17 points and six rebounds.

USA led 58-42 at half-time and never looked back, as Bam Adebayo returned to the starting five with good impact.

“I thought we sustained it pretty well in our game against Australia, and we competed well, rebounded, played defense, ran the floor and had good pace for one half, but then it dissipated through the second half,” Popovich said.

“Tonight, I thought we maintained [effort] pretty much throughout the game, so hopefully that's a sign that we are in a little better condition.

"To play these games is huge for us. So, it was better, and it is getting better, bit by bit, every day.”

Popovich also praised Adebayo along with Draymond Green, while Jayson Tatum missed the game with a right knee injury with no timeframe confirmed.

"I thought both Bam and Draymond Green facilitated a lot of action, and they were very active," Popovich said. "They got everybody involved, which is something that's really important for us."

Beal added that the side had learned some important lessons from the Australia and Nigeria defeats.

"The biggest thing we have to realise is that it’s not the NBA, and coach Pop keeps re-emphasizing that to us every single day," Beal said.

"It’s more physical. These guys have been playing together for five, 10-plus years, so they have this experience and chemistry. We're trying to develop that in a short period of time."

USA have further games against Australia and Spain, before departing for Tokyo next Monday with the first Olympics game against France on July 25.

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich described LaMarcus Aldridge as a "consummate professional" after the veteran retired due to a health issue.

Aldridge played while dealing with an irregular heartbeat in the Brooklyn Nets' 126-101 defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers last Saturday, a problem that became worse after the game.

The seven-time All-Star was listed as out with a non-COVID related illness for the Nets' next two games against the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Philadelphia 76ers.

On Thursday, the 35-year-old announced he was putting his health and family first and calling it a day.

Aldridge had only joined the Nets as a free agent in March and averaged 12.8 points in five games after agreeing a contract buyout with the Spurs.

He was signed by the Spurs ahead of the 2015-16 season, helping San Antonio reach the Western Conference Finals in 2017 where they were swept by the Golden State Warriors.

"LaMarcus Aldridge enjoyed a wonderful NBA career. He was a consummate professional with a unique skill set and a deep respect for the game," Popovich said in a Spurs statement.

"We're grateful for his contributions, both on and off the court, during his time here in San Antonio.

"I'm proud of him for making this difficult decision and we wish him and his family all of the best in the future."

Selected second overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 2006 draft, Aldridge spent the majority of his career with the Portland Trail Blazers, scoring 12,562 points to sit third on the franchise's all-time list.

Aldridge played in 1,029 NBA games and finishes up averaging 19.4 points and 8.2 rebounds.

The Los Angeles Clippers spoiled Doc Rivers' return as they topped the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers 122-112 in the NBA.

Rivers reunited with the Clippers for the first time since being fired and joining the 76ers in the offseason, having led the Los Angeles franchise to six playoff appearances.

But Rivers did not have much to celebrate after the 76ers had their four-game winning streak snapped on Saturday.

Kawhi Leonard posted 28 points – 19 in the first half – and Clippers team-mate Paul George added 24 of his own in Los Angeles.

Terance Mann had a season-high 23 points for the Clippers on 10-of-12 shooting from the field, while he made both of his three-point attempts.

The 76ers had a six-game road winning run ended, despite a game-high 29 points from Tobias Harris.

 

Mitchell sparks Jazz

Donovan Mitchell put up 35 points as the NBA-leading Utah Jazz defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 126-110. Mitchell was efficient in Utah, where he was 12-of-17 shooting from the field, to go with his five three-pointers from seven attempts in 28 minutes. All-Star team-mate Rudy Gobert (16 points and 14 rebounds) contributed a double-double.

Gregg Popovich became the third coach in NBA history to reach 1,300 regular-season wins following the San Antonio Spurs' 120-104 victory against the Chicago Bulls. Only Don Nelson (1,335) and Lenny Wilkens (1,332) have had 1,300 wins or more. All-Star Nikola Vucevic had 21 points and nine rebounds in his debut for the Bulls after being traded by the lowly Orlando Magic.

Zion Williamson's 38 points led the New Orleans Pelicans past the Dallas Mavericks 112-103. Tim Hardaway Jr. had 30 points off the bench for the beaten Mavericks.

Russell Westbrook's triple-double of 19 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists fuelled a 106-92 win for the Washington Wizards against the Detroit Pistons.

The Milwaukee Bucks were upstaged 102-96 by the New York Knicks despite double-doubles from two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (23 points and 10 rebounds), Jordan Nwora (21 points and 10 rebounds) and Brook Lopez (12 points and 10 rebounds).

 

Awful Richardson

The Mavericks went down to the Pelicans and Josh Richardson struggled. The shooting guard finished one-of-11 from the field. Richardson missed all four of his attempts from beyond the arc for a measly four points in 34 minutes.

Mike Scott – in the starting five for the 76ers – finished with just three points in Los Angeles. He was one-of-six from the field, making just one three-pointer in 29 minutes.

 

Barnes calls game!

With the Sacramento Kings trailing 98-97, Harrison Barnes nailed a buzzer-beating three after catching a full-court pass to sink the Cleveland Cavaliers. De'Aaron Fox's 36 points set the tone for the Kings, who edged the Cavaliers 100-98.

 

Saturday's results

Washington Wizards 106-92 Detroit Pistons
New York Knicks 102-96 Milwaukee Bucks
Houston Rockets 129-107 Minnesota Timberwolves
San Antonio Spurs 120-104 Chicago Bulls
New Orleans Pelicans 112-103 Dallas Mavericks
Boston Celtics 111-94 Oklahoma City Thunder
Utah Jazz 126-110 Memphis Grizzlies
Los Angeles Clippers 122-112 Philadelphia 76ers
Sacramento Kings 100-98 Cleveland Cavaliers

 

Suns at Hornets

The high-flying Phoenix Suns (30-14) – second in the west – will visit the in-form Charlotte Hornets (23-21) on Sunday. Charlotte have won three straight games to sit fourth in the Eastern Conference.

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has revealed the club and veteran LaMarcus Aldridge have mutually agreed to part ways.

The 35-year-old power forward/center will explore his trade options before the March 25 deadline.

"We've mutually agreed for him to work out some opportunities for him, and that'll be elsewhere," Popovich told reporters before Wednesday's 115-104 loss to Dallas.

"He's been a great team-mate. There was no problem there. We just think this is a win-win for LaMarcus and the club.

"When an opportunity arises, that'll be up to management, his agent, that sort of thing. We'll all move forward.

"He's done everything we've asked, and at this point we'd just like to do something that will work for him as much for our club because he deserves that."

Seven-time All-Star Aldridge had missed eight of San Antonio's final 11 matches prior to the All-Star break with a combination of hip and quadriceps injuries.

This season, Aldridge has averaged 13.7 points and 4.5 rebounds in 25.9 minutes per game.

Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard is planning to represent the United States at the rescheduled Olympic Games in Tokyo this year.

Coronavirus forced the 2020 Games to be postponed, with the Olympics now due to be held in Tokyo from July 23 to August 8 this year.

Despite a potentially congested schedule, with the Clippers contenders in the Western Conference and the NBA season set to finish on July 22 if the Finals go the distance, Leonard is ready to play for Team USA.

"My plan is to go," Leonard said on Sunday, ahead of the All-Star Game in Atlanta.

Gregg Popovich's Team USA are set to play their first game against France on July 25.

"If I feel up to it and feel ready to go around that time, then I'm going to play," Leonard said.

Leonard added: "A lot of people were in for 2020, but just the pandemic pretty much killed everything."

Team USA won the Gold Medal in 2016, defeating Serbia at the Rio De Janeiro Games almost five years ago in Brazil.

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