Saitama—Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum turned on the style as the US men’s basketball team eventually shook off the Czech Republic to win 119-84 to reach the Olympic knockout phase Saturday.
Boston Celtics star Tatum scored 27 points and Brooklyn Nets forward Durant hit 23 points in a win that sent Gregg Popovich’s team into the quarter-finals.
The combative Czechs were just four points behind at half-time in Saitama, but Durant upped the tempo in the second half.
During the game Durant took two records from Carmelo Anthony, becoming both the US Olympic men’s all-time points and all-time field goals leader.
Having lost their opening game to France—the first US men’s basketball loss at an Olympics since Athens in 2004 —the victory against the Czechs guaranteed that the Americans will avoid any of the three group winners until at least the semi-finals.
They finished second behind France in Group A after the French eased past Iran 79-62 to seal top spot.
Meanwhile, Australia suffered a blow to their men’s basketball gold medal hopes Friday with Toronto Raptors star Aron Baynes ruled out of the rest of the Olympics with a neck injury exacerbated by a bathroom fall.
The triple Olympian picked up the problem in the second half of the Boomers’ three-point win over Italy on Wednesday in Saitama, and then worsened the injury by slipping in the bathroom.
In a “complicated series of events”, team doctor David Hughes said Baynes “suffered injury during the match on the court. And then he had a slip in the bathroom, and suffered further injury.”
“It became apparent to the medical stuff that this was a bit more serious than just an average injury and so as a precaution he was taken to hospital and he’s undergoing further tests at the moment,” Hughes said.
Baynes is expected to recover, but not in time to return to the court in Tokyo.
“I am really disappointed that I can’t continue in the Olympics,” he said in a statement.
“I along with the rest of the team have been working so hard in our quest for an historic Olympic medal and I am gutted that I can’t complete the journey with the boys. But I have every confidence that they will get the job done.”
Third-ranked Australia have never won an Olympic gold, but believe that with other NBA players like Patty Mills and Joe Ingles in their ranks they have enough firepower to break the drought in Japan.
Head coach Brian Goorjian said he remained confident in the team’s chances.
“Aron is a big part of our team and we are all hurting for him, but we have great depth in our squad and I have every confidence in the 11 remaining players,” he said.
“We will all stay focused on the task ahead.”
Australia’s next pool game is against Germany on Saturday.