Kevin Durant leads Team USA romp over Argentina after stunning 0-2 practice start

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LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 12: Kevin Durant #7 of the United States brings the ball on the field against the Australia Boomers during an exhibition game at Michelob Ultra Arena ahead of the Tokyo Olympics on July 12, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada .  Australia defeated the United States 91-83.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

This is expected from USA Basketball.

After a stunning 0-2 start in the exhibition game, Team USA opened the Olympics warm-up game against Argentina on Tuesday with a 33-19 lead in the first quarter. It didn’t look back.

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The Americans drove hot shooting from 3-point distance and a strong defensive effort to a 108-80 win over Argentina in Las Vegas. The win will not allay concerns about the team’s slow start, less than two weeks after its July 25 debut at the Tokyo Olympics. But it should dampen calls to press the panic button.

Kevin Durant set the tone early on with a pair of three-pointers to help Team USA to a 10-4 lead. By the time the first quarter was over, the Americans had knocked down six three-pointers to make up for 18 of their 33 points.

Durant finished with 17 points and six rebounds as he connected with 3-for-5 shots from behind the arc. He was joined by co-starters Damian Lillard, Zach Lavine, Bam Adebayo and Bradley Beal in double digits as Beal tied his 17 points as he hooked up on 2-for-4 3-pointers.

It was a complete effort on both sides of the floor for Team USA, who shot 51.4% from the field while connecting at 13-of-29 (44.8%) from 3 points away. The Americans won the rebound 40-34 as they shot Argentina 38.4% from the floor.

Retired 41-year-old NBA veteran Luis Scola led Argentina with 16 points and five rebounds. Facundo Campazzo, who started for the Denver Nuggets after Jamal Murray’s injury, scored 12 points but struggled off the field with a 4-for-12 effort. It was another disappointing attempt for Argentina, which entered the exhibition tournament in Las Vegas as the number 4 team in the world, but lost 94-71 to Nigeria on Monday.

Tuesday’s win for Team USA arrives a day later a shocking loss of 91-83 for Australia. That loss came on the heels of Saturday 90-87 loss against Nigeria, a few results that expressed doubts about the ability of this team to win gold in Tokyo.

Team USA won without Jayson Tatum, who suffers daily pain in the right knee. The team played its third game in a row without Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, who are all slated to join the team in Tokyo after the NBA Finals.

But Team USA still had four current NBA All-Stars in Durant, Lillard, Beal and Lavine on Tuesday — four more than Argentina grounded. Anything less than a big win against a team that played below expectations would have set off alarm bells.

For now, consider the panic around Team USA on hiatus. The Americans are -400 gambling favorites to win the gold medal after Tuesday’s win.

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