Kurt Helin

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Twitter reacts to Team USA’s latest gold medal in hoops

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The USA has won 25 straight games in the Olympics, which has now brought them three straight gold medals after the USA throttled an outmanned Serbian team Sunday.

On twitter, the love rolled in for Team USA from the biggest names in the game (and just some big-name fans). Here are just a few highlights.

Watch Carmelo Anthony’s emotional postgame interview

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Carmelo Anthony now has three Olympic gold medals, more than any other male basketball player in history.

This was emotional for him — because of the journey, and because he said again he is done and this is his last games — and it showed during a postgame interview on NBC where he almost cried thinking about what all this meant.

Anthony went on to talk a little about social issues in the interview.

“Despite everything that’s going on right now in our country, we’ve got to be united…. America will be great again, I believe that. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but it’s one step at a time. And I’m glad we represented in the fashion we did.”

We all are.

Kevin Durant reminds everyone he’s the best player in Rio, peaks when USA needs him most

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Serbia was hanging around with the USA to start the gold medal game Sunday, grinding the pace down to a crawl through much of the first quarter, and the USA helped out with isolation offense and little ball or player movement. It was ugly.

Then Kevin Durant reminded everybody he is one of the two best pure scorers walking the face of the earth — and the best in these Olympics.

Working with a second unit that moved the ball and got transition chances — Kyle Lowry and Paul George came in and changed the dynamic — Durant went off.

Durant hit a three from about 27 feet. Next possession down he did the same thing. Next possession he blew by his defender and drove the lane for a two-handed dunk. Durant was just getting rolling.

Durant had a fluid and effortless 24 points on 14 shots and hit 5-of-8 from three — in the first half. At that point, the competitive portion of the game was over.

KD finished the game with 30 points (on 19 shots) and four assists, and like a February NBA blowout he sat most of the fourth quarter.

For a guy who has spent most of the summer painted as a villain everywhere outside Northern California, this was a chance to bask in the glow of winning for his country. It was a role where he is comfortable.

And it’s a role he’s filled before — he had 30 point gold medal game in the 2012 London Olympics, too. When the moment has been big on the international stage, Durant has stepped up. And not just on offense, Durant picked up his defense, too. He had some sloppy and disinterested games in group play on that end, but when the gold was on the line Durant picked it up and played well.

Durant was the best player in Rio. Bar none. You can argue that Pau Gasol for Spain or maybe others had better Olympics (Gasol was asked to play a huge role for the Spanish team), but there was nobody in Rio with the top end of Durant. When he got hot and took over game — which had happened in stretches before the gold medal game — there was nothing any team in Brazil could do. Something they have in common with NBA squads.

Durant finished the Olympics averaging a USA best 19.4 points per game, and while in Brazil he moved into second on the all-time USA Olympic scoring list (trailing only Carmelo Anthony). But he saved his best games for last. Which is what the greats do. He said he learned in the 2010 World Championships just to be himself and not worry about the outcome, and that clearly works with him.

Watching Durant and Klay Thompson drain open threes playing together against Serbia was a chilling reminder of how much shooting is on that Golden State roster this fall.

But Sunday wasn’t about Golden State, it was about a different kind of gold. And when the USA needed their best to secure that gold medal, Kevin Durant stepped up like an all-time great.

 

Zach LaVine on Tom Thibodeau: “He is really strict and he’s ready to go”

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It’s one of the interesting questions heading into the NBA season: How much will the presence and drive of Tom Thibodeau push an already on-the-rise team in Minnesota? Just how good will the Timberwolves be, and how fast?

For the past few weeks, Thibodeau has been yelling at Team USA players about their defense (with varied results), but soon he will be in Minnesota ready to yell at Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and the rest of the Timberwolves.

What are LaVine’s impressions of Thibodeau? Here it is, from a Sports Illustrated interview.

Yeah I worked out with coach a couple of times now. He is really strict and he’s ready to go, so I like that. He’s going to push you and he’s very aggressive and he tells you how it is. It’s been a long summer, so were ready to get into the season.”

Maybe more interesting, LaVine has worked out a little with first-round draft pick Kris Dunn and threw this in almost unsolicited.

“Kris Dunn is a very athletic point guard. I met him twice I think, worked out with him once. He’s a going to be a great player, we saw what he can do in Summer League, so it’s going to be fun.”

Minnesota is a team to watch the next few years — in two or three seasons it could be the biggest threat to Golden State at the top of the West.

Quote of the Day: Jim Boeheim says coaching Team USA is “fantasy world” NBA

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“This is really different than the NBA. This is the best. This is getting the NBA players without agents, without anybody else telling them what they should do, with them willing to do exactly what we have to do to win. So it’s really not coaching in the NBA. It’s not even close. We know that. This is fantasy world.”

—Team USA assistant coach (and Syracuse head coach) Jim Boeheim on coaching USA Basketball vs. NBA. Via ESPN.

There are agendas around Team USA — hello Nike! — but since Mike Krzyzewski has come on as coach USA Basketball has done a fantastic job of getting elite NBA players to come to them and accept a role. The most obvious was when Kobe went to Coach K in 2008 before Beijing and said he simply wanted to be their defensive stopper. All-Star players are willing to come off the bench (and in some cases barely play) to be part of something bigger than themselves. To sacrifice minutes and numbers for gold. Things many would not and have not done during an NBA season.

The coaches know how lucky they are. And these players know they will go back to being “the man” in the NBA. But for a month or so, it is a fantasy world.