Hoping to take a commanding 2-0 lead in group play at the 2016 Rio Games, the United States men’s basketball team next faces reigning South American champion Venezuela in Group A play Monday night at Barra Carioca Arena.
Led by forward Kevin Durant’s 25 points and six assists, Team USA took down China 119-62 in its group opener last week and now sit well atop Group A’s standings with a victory and solid control of the point differential. Serbia and Australia also have victories, but their point differentials of 24 and 21, respectively, pale in comparison to the U.S.’s 57 points.
It marked the third straight win for the U.S. over the Chinese, including the two nation’s exhibition clashes just before heading to Brazil, and big man DeMarcus Cousins was just behind Durant with 17 points, followed by Paul George’s 15 points and Kyrie Irving’s 12 points and five assists.
The U.S. had no trouble sharing the ball, with 31 of its 38 made field goals assisted, but George said afterwards that the squad is still adjusting to international play and each other.
“We’re still learning,” George said. “Some shots we’re passing up that we should take. Some shots we are taking we should pass up. It’s a little give and go on that end. We’re still trying to figure this thing out. The best thing about it is our energy is phenomenal. Our effort is phenomenal. You put those two together with the talent that we have, and everything else will kind of all into shape.”
Venezuela, which fell to Serbia 86-62 in its first game, is in desperate need of a victory in order to stay afloat in the tournament but will have to avoid another blowout against the U.S. without it’s own NBA player, Brooklyn Nets point guard Greivis Vasquez.
Appearing in just 23 games with the Milwaukee Bucks last season, Vasquez is still recovering from ankle surgery and regretfully bowed out of the games.
But the Venezuelans are coming off their first South American championship, which Vasquez missed as well last month, and shooting guard Jose Vargas and center Gregory Echenique may represent Team USA’s first two match-up problems in Brazil.
Echenique faced a strong Serbian frontline and netted 12 points and five rebounds, including four on the offensive glass, and Vargas totaled 12 points and five boards as well, but the Venezuelans continued to struggle from long-range. They went 4-for-22 from three and shot a similar percentage against the U.S. in their 80-45 exhibition loss last month.
Tip-Off: Saturday, 6 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC Sports Network
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra