LONDON — Kevin Durant scored 22 points and LeBron James added eight assists as the US men’s team won their opening match of the London Olympics 98-71 over France yesterday.
Seeking a second straight gold medal to match the one they won in Beijing four years ago, the Americans expected a tough test from a French team featuring San Antonio guard Tony Parker and five other NBA players.
The US was never in real trouble, and after overcoming some major foul issues and sloppy play, the superstar-laden squad finally put France away in the second half.
Kobe Bryant had said this team could beat the 1992 Dream Team that changed international hoops forever at the Barcelona Games. That matchup is mythical, but the London Games aren’t and this US team will have to play much better in upcoming games if it plans to maintain American dominance.
With first lady Michelle Obama on hand to cheer on the US, Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler added nine rebounds apiece Kevin Love finished with 14 points for the Americans.
As they left the floor, the US players stopped to hug the first lady. Parker, playing with goggles to protect a surgically repaired left eye, scored 10 points but France, which trailed by just one point after the first quarter, fell to 0-5 in Olympic competition against the US. Ali Traore led the French with 12 points.
With the US leading 52-36 at halftime, Durant opened the second half with a three-pointer, Bryant dropped one from long range and after James dunked an alley-oop pass from Deron Williams, the Americans led 64-43 and it was au revoir, France.
The US team’s lead ballooned to 78-51 after three quarters, allowing coach Mike Krzyzewski to rest Bryant, James and Durant for most of the fourth quarter. With the game well in hand, Krzyzewski even gave 19-year-old Anthony Davis, the top pick in June’s NBA draft, his first taste of Olympic play.