Americans handle Croatia in opener
For weeks, the players on Team USA have been hearing about what they aren’t.
Not big enough. Not old enough. And maybe even not good enough.
Yesterday, they finally got to show what they believe they can be: the team that ends a 16-year world championship drought.
Kevin Durant scored 14 points and got the United States started on a dominant second-quarter stretch in a 106-78 victory over Croatia in its opening game of the tournament in Istanbul.
“People aren’t expecting us to come out here and win, so we just wanted to make a statement and I think tonight we did,’’ Durant said.
Eric Gordon made four 3-pointers and had 16 points to lead the Americans, who turned a close game into a blowout by outscoring the Croatians, 26-6, in the second quarter.
It was an impressive start for a US team that came to Turkey without any players who helped them win the gold medal in the 2008 Olympics. Instead of those superstars, the Americans are left with a young, undersized team that features Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer, as its centerpiece.
He scored 5 straight points to kick off the decisive burst early in the second quarter and added eight rebounds in 21 minutes.
All 12 players scored for the Americans, as coach Mike Krzyzewski was able to give his starters plenty of rest with the US playing its three toughest Group B games in the first three days of the tournament.
Group A — Carlos Delfino hit three free throws over the final 10 seconds to lift Argentina over Germany, 78-74. Delfino finished with 27 points . . . Serbia, even with two of its top players suspended for the game, crushed Angola, 94-44. Aleksandar Rasic scored 22 points . . . Australia survived Jordan’s upset bid, 76-75.
Group B — Guilherme Giovannoni scored 17 points and Tiago Splitter and Leandro Barbosa added 13 apiece for Brazil in an 81-65 win over Iran, which was making its worlds debut. Brazil was without Anderson Varejao (sore ankle), who isn’t expected to play until the Brazilians face the United States tomorrow . . . Slovenia defeated Tunisia, 80-56.
Group C — Omer Onan started the game by hitting consecutive 3-pointers and Turkey was never threatened as it opened play as the host country, blasting the Ivory Coast, 86-47. Onan scored 18 points and Ersan Ilyasova added 17 . . . Sergey Monya’s 16 points led a balanced attack as Russia posted a 75-66 win over Puerto Rico, which got 25 points from Jose Barea . . . Greece held off China, 89-81.
Group D — France made 10 of its last 12 free throws in defeating defending champion Spain, 72-66. Mickael Gelabale scored 16 points to lead France, and Juan Carlos Navarro had 17 for Spain . . . Fadi El Khatib scored 31 points for Lebanon in a 81-71 victory over Canada . . . Linas Kleiza’s 27 points paced Lithuania past New Zealand, 92-79.