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U.S. men's basketball team overcomes slow start, beats Spain in Olympic quarterfinals

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TOKYO — The U.S. men’s basketball team is moving on to the Olympic semifinals after surviving a stiff but not unexpected challenge from Spain in a 95-81 victory.

Trailing by as many as 10 points late in the second quarter, Team USA rode Kevin Durant to a 36-10 run that spanned both halves and eventually wore down the Spanish team, which got a 38-point effort from point guard Ricky Rubio.

As brilliant as Rubio was, however, he did not have the luxury of playing alongside multiple NBA All-Stars who showed up Tuesday with intensity on both ends of the floor and a commitment to moving the ball instead of settling for contested jumpers.

Durant led Team USA with 29 points, including a trio of threes in the first four minutes of the second half that helped turn a tied game into one that the Americans had full command of. The U.S. led by 16 with 4:33 remaining in the third quarter, though it had to survive one more Rubio-fueled spurt by Spain that kept it within range at 69-63 heading into the fourth quarter.

Kevin Durant runs down the court against Spain.
Kevin Durant runs down the court against Spain.

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Ultimately, Team USA had too many answers as Spain’s players outside of Rubio shot 16-for-44. Still, it was only an eight-point game with four minutes left, forcing the U.S. to continue making shots to put the game away. Jrue Holiday finally landed the knockout blow with 2:20 remaining, hitting a three to extend the lead to 13 points.

Holiday (12 points) was one of five U.S. players in double figures, along with Jayson Tatum (13), Damian Lillard (11) and Zach LaVine (10).

This is the first time Spain will leave the Olympics without a medal since 2004, having lost to the U.S. in the championship match in 2008 and 2012 and settling for the bronze in 2016. The Spaniards came into this event ranked No. 2 by FIBA on the strength of their title at the 2019 Basketball World Cup, so it was no surprise they presented some difficulties for the American team.

The U.S. will play the winner of Australia-Argentina in the semifinals.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kevin Durant leads USA men's basketball past Spain in Tokyo Olympics