Badly in need of a jolt of adrenaline after three lackluster performances, Team USA got exactly that from Kevin Durant.
Scoring 13 of his game-high 27 points in the first quarter, the Warriors forward led the national team to a 105-78 victory over Argentina in a quarterfinal Olympics game Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro.
The Americans advance to the semifinal round and will face Spain, which posted a 92-67 rout of France earlier Wednesday.
With Durant setting the tone, Team USA shrugged off a slow start to go on a 27-2 run spanning the first and second quarters, wiping out a 19-9 deficit and taking a 36-21 lead with 8:16 left in the second quarter.
The national team was never threatened after that, owning a 56-40 lead at the half and pushing it to 87-61 after three quarters.
Durant’s scoring burst represented the second consecutive game in which the top scorer for Team USA was a Warrior. Guard Klay Thompson poured in 30 points in a win over France on Sunday.
After three consecutive opponents – Australia, Serbia and France – shot at least 50 percent against team USA, coach Mike Krzyzewski’s squad tightened up the defense and held Argentina to 38-percent shooting.
“We played with passion and energy tonight; I think that’s the big difference,” Durant told NBC Sports reporter Ros Gold-Onwude. “X’s and O’s are good. We went over a lot. But we played with passion and energy. Once we did that, we were able to play well on the offensive end, move the ball, and defensively cover for each other.
“We’ve got a tough game against Spain next and we’re looking forward to playing them.”
How the Warriors fared:
Durant: 27 points (9-of-13 from the field, 7-of-9 from deep), seven rebounds, six assists and two steals. He started at forward, playing 28 minutes, and clearly was the MVP of the game.
Draymond Green: 1 point (0-of-5 shooting, 0-1 from deep), three rebounds and two assists. The forward played 13 minutes off the bench.
Thompson: 4 points (2-of-8 shooting, 0-of-6 from deep), four rebounds and one assist. He started at guard and played 20 minutes.