New role, same old result for Kevin Durant; and even with another loss from its roster, the U.S. Olympic basketball team just keeps on rolling along.
Durant picked up where he left off in international competition, scoring 24 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to lead the Americans to a 113-59 victory over the Dominican Republic on Thursday night in an exhibition game.
The MVP of the world basketball championship two years ago, Durant came off the bench to shoot 9 of 11 from the field, making 5 of 6 3-pointers in 22 minutes. He said coach Mike Krzyzewski told him shortly before the game that Carmelo Anthony would start alongside LeBron James at forward, and he adjusted just fine.
"It felt good to me," Durant said. "It was cool to come off the bench for the first time. Wherever they need that spark, I'm going to try to come out and give them that spark. So I was looking forward to having different roles playing with USA, so it was kind of fun for me, actually."
It worked perfectly for the Americans, who continue to shake off their lack of size by throwing together lineups that negate any height disadvantage. Durant came in the first time for center, Tyson Chandler.
"The way we're playing is exactly the way we should play, I think, with this group of athletes and with the depth that we have," Krzyzewski said, adding that Durant would remain a reserve for at least the next game. "We have good depth, especially on the perimeter."
Andre Iguodala added 18 points and Anthony had 13 for the Americans, who were without All-Star forward Blake Griffin. The Los Angeles Clippers announced Thursday night that he would need surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee and would miss the Olympics.
It's another loss up front for the Americans, already without Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh. But James, Anthony and Durant can all play power forward or perhaps even center in the international game.
"They're big," said Dominican Republic coach John Calipari, who won the national championship with Kentucky in April. "They're bigger than you think."
Alternate Anthony Davis took Griffin's place and was in uniform against his college coach. But Calipari was the on the wrong end of the talent mismatch in this one, calling a few timeouts but probably knowing there was no strategy to stop the onslaught of U.S. fast breaks.
Davis, the national player of the year as a freshman and No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, didn't make the 12-man roster after being unable to scrimmage before it was selected while recovering from a sprained ankle. But USA Basketball leadership believes his rebounding and shot blocking could be a good addition to an undersized team in case of an injury, and he scored nine points in 10 fourth-quarter minutes.
Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks shot just 1 of 12 for the Dominican Republic and had seven points. The Dominicans' other NBA player, Francisco Garcia, missed all three attempts from the field and didn't score.
James and Kobe Bryant both had limited duty, playing less than 20 minutes and combining for 11 points. Durant hit all five shots in the first quarter, including three 3-pointers. He returned early in the second and knocked down another 3 before he finally missed, helping the Americans build a 50-27 halftime lead behind his 21 points. He started the second half.
Griffin is another loss for a U.S. team that already saw Howard, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade and Bosh withdraw because of injuries. Chris Paul has been limited during training camp after spraining his right thumb on the first day.
Despite those losses, the Americans still consider themselves the best team in the world - and apparently, ever. Bryant created a stir when he said he thought this young, athletic U.S. team probably would have pulled out a game against the Dream Team.