The U.S. men’s basketball team on Saturday pummeled the Czech Republic to earn a berth in the Olympic version of the playoffs as they seek a gold medal.
Team USA won 119-84 after trailing by seven at the end of the first quarter.
Jayson Tatum led the Americans with 27 points, followed by Kevin Durant with 20 and Zach LaVine with 13.
Durant also totaled eight rebounds and six assists, the most in each category.
“It’s fun to watch, and fun to be part of,” said Jrue Holiday after the game.
The Czech Republic only has one player in the NBA, Tomas Satoransky, but Team USA uncharacteristically dropped two exhibition matches and an Olympic game to France, making the game a must-win to enter the sudden death play.
“Losing definitely helps you grow,” Holiday said.
“Congratulations to the USA,” said Satoransky, who revealed he’s been playing in the Olympics with a groin injury that he said will need time to heal. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t continue with the same type of basketball after the first half. … Obviously, they’re the best team in the world.”
Team USA won gold medals in the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Olympics after a disappointing bronze finish in 2004.
Their loss to France in group play was followed by a rout of Iran, before the commanding win on Saturday.
“I think our guys really focused well and did a good job in gaining ground, day by day, practice by practice,” U.S. coach Gregg Popovich told reporters. “Hopefully we’ll continue that moving forward. We have to if we want to be successful.”
The United States (2-1) finished second behind France in Group A, but will join France, Australia, and the winner of Sunday’s game between Slovenia and Spain as a top-four seed for Tuesday’s quarterfinals based on FIBA’s tiebreaker system that includes point differential.
Those quarterfinal matchups will be decided in a draw on Sunday night, but the United States has now assured itself of not having to face any of the three group winners until at least the semifinals.
Also on Saturday, France beat Iran, Italy topped Nigeria, and Australia took down Germany.
The U.S. women’s basketball team a day prior beat Japan to win their 51st consecutive Olympic game.
The team is scheduled to face off with France on Monday.
American women earlier took the gold in 3×3 basketball. It was the first time the discipline was included in the Olympics. Latvia won the men’s 3×3 basketball, with no men’s team in the field.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.