Tuesday night’s pre-Olympics basketball exhibition between the United States and China is unlikely to be remembered for its result, a 107-55 thumping that confirmed everything we already know about Team USA’s dominance. They led 52-24 at the half and never looked in serious danger of winning in anything less than a blowout. It wasn’t always a thrilling display, but they dominated every facet of the contest.
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Of course, many attendees at Oracle Arena were there less for Team USA as a whole than for one player — superstar Kevin Durant. Tuesday marked KD’s first game in Oakland as a member of the Golden State Warriors, and he was not surprisingly afforded the hero’s welcome that eluded him before Sunday’s exhibition in Los Angeles. With several of his new Warriors teammates on the court and in the crowd, Durant took control of the game early and showed the excited crowd much of what they can expect to cheer once the NBA season gets started this fall.
Durant was surrounded by an overwhelmingly positive atmosphere as soon as he took the court. He met with fans and signed autographs over an hour before tipoff, taking in the love that has not come his way in most cities since his decision to leave Oklahoma City:
— GoldenStateWarriors (@warriors) July 27, 2016
Kevin Durant is being swarmed by autograph seekers, including one with this sign: "KD is not a villain." pic.twitter.com/zLsHYgZop4
— Rusty Simmons (@Rusty_SFChron) July 27, 2016
The crowd only got more excited when Durant was introduced along with the other U.S. starters:
It got louder all of seven seconds into the game, when Durant knocked down this three-pointer to open the scoring:
That bucket started a run of 10 straight points for Durant, who threatened to out-score China by himself through much of the first quarter. KD finished the first half with 13 and failed to score after the break, but his opening scoring burst made a strong statement on his own. Expect to see similar runs when Durant dons a Warriors uniform, too.
The night belonged to Golden State even beyond Durant’s on-court excellence. Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, general manager Bob Myers, and principal owner Joe Lacob all took in the exhibition from courtside seats. Curry was understandably the center of attention for both the crowd and players:
The rest of the show wasn’t bad either. Team USA stalwart Carmelo Anthony had the single most impressive stretch of the game when he put up 16 of his 20 points in the third quarter, but DeMarcus Cousins led the way with 21 on just eight shot attempts. Otherwise, the top highlight came on a non-basket when DeMar DeRozan attempted to dunk on a Chinese player with a 360. He missed, but it was impressive enough that the Team USA bench earned a technical foul for its celebration.
DeRozan’s creativity and brazenness exemplified the gap between the two teams better than any other moment. China is far from the best squad that the United States will play this summer, but these early exhibitions have done nothing to convince that they shouldn’t win every game in a blowout. They’re that much better than everyone else.
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