Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Basketball – Men – Group A – United States v Iran – Saitama Super Arena, Saitama, Japan – July 28, 2021. Zach Lavine of the United States in action with Mohammad Hassanzadeh of Iran REUTERS/Brian Snyder
July 28, 2021
By Omar Mohammed
Saitama, Japan (Reuters) – The United States got back on track in their quest for a fourth consecutive gold medal on Wednesday after a 54 point blow-out win against Iran buoyed by a barrage of three pointers as they put behind their disappointing loss on Sunday against France.
U.S guard Damian Lillard was sizzling hot to begin the game as he hit six threes in the first half, helping the Americans shoot 63% from beyond the arc as they built a commanding 60-30 lead.
Lillard, who plays for the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, finished with a game high 21 points. The U.S ended up making 19 threes for the game and came away with a 120-66 victory.
The dominant win will allay concerns about the U.S. team’s medal credentials in Tokyo 2020 that erupted after they suffered a shock defeat against France on Sunday, losing at the Olympics for the first time since 2004 and for just the sixth time in the history of the tournament.
But they righted the ship on Wednesday.
Stout defense and sweet shooting catapulted them to victory, as they forced turnovers and held Iran’s best player guard Behnam Yakhchalidehkordi to only six points, a far cry from his sensational performance from his team’s first game when he had a game high 23 points.
Kevin Durant, who was saddled with foul trouble in the game against France, bounced back with a terrific all around performance finishing with 10 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 3 blocks and zero turnovers.
His great execution was epitomised in one possession mid-way through the third quarter when he blocked a shot, retrieved possession and threw a pass to a running Bam Adebayo for a dunk.
Iran were yet again their own worst enemy as they were sloppy with the basketball committing 23 turnovers which resulted in 37 U.S. points. Hamed Haddadi led their scoring with 15 points.
The U.S. play against the Czech Republic on Saturday, while Iran face France on the same day.
In the earlier tip-off, Germany beat Nigeria 99-92, pulling away in the fourth quarter to register their first win of the tournament helped by balanced scoring led by big man Johannes Voigtmann’s 19 points and 7 rebounds performance.
The Germans, who shot more than 50% from the field, had five players score in double figures and withstood an explosive game from Nigeria forward Jordan Nwora, who put up a game high 33 points.
The win puts Germany back on track to qualify for the knockout phase of the tournament while defeat leaves Nigeria on the verge of leaving the Games early.
The next group B matches are on Saturday, with Germany playing Australia while Nigeria will face-off against Italy.
The games are currently in the group stage made up of three groups of four teams each. First and second place teams from each group automatically go through to the knock-out phase, while the two best third-placed teams also advance.
(Reporting by Omar Mohammed; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)