September 11, 2010 by staff
Especially on 11 September.
With a special commemorative message in their shoes, Durant led the United States in the gold medal game at the world championships, setting a U.S. record 38 points Saturday in a 89-74 victory over Lithuania.
“I just wanted to remind everyone back in the U.S., everyone who was affected by 9 / 11,” said Durant. “And to play today was a great honor and just tried to do my best to play hard for our country and our families.”
Durant rose above the defenders and left them for 3-pointers, scoring 17 in the first quarter of game that the Americans an early lead that has never been questioned.
He went on to overcome single-game record of Carmelo Anthony, 35 points and raise his average to 22.1 in the tournament, which would be the best ever by a U.S. player.
“I’ve seen him score 45, 35, back to back,” said guard and NBA teammate Russell Westbrook. “I’m not surprised at all what we’ve been doing.”
More importantly, Durant guaranteed Americans the opportunity of his first world title since 1994. Turkey and Serbia will play on Sunday.
“That’s what we came to do,” said guard Eric Gordon. “We’re a young team and fight through many adversities and that’s what we’re here to win gold.”
There were some doubts about this team was that could end U.S. drought after all the superstars of the 2008 Olympic gold medal refused to play this summer. But Durant was saying yes, and that is about to go down as the U.S. player achievements in the history of this event.
Durant posted a message on his Twitter page on Saturday that read: “May God bless those who are effected by the events of September 11, 2001…. 11/09/2001 in my shoes tonight. You will ensure us. ”
Then he went out and dominated the first quarter, shooting from the field in front of Section 324, which was completely flooded in Lithuania green and full of fans beating drums and waving flags.
Lamar Odom added 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Andre Iguodala led the defensive effort that had stars Lithuania Linas Kleiza right out of the game.
“They did a great job on our leader, Linas Kleiza. We could not find a solution to its star Kevin Durant,” said Lithuania coach Kestutis Kemzura. “He was unstoppable today.”
The teams met last month in an exhibition game in Madrid and the U.S. shot only 3 of 21 in the first quarter before rallying with a 77-61 victory. There would be no slow start this time.
Lithuania led by two midway through the first quarter before Durant took over the game, showing his repertoire. First it was a dunk, followed by a three-point play and two free throws. Iguodala briefly interrupted the show for a mate, and then Durant scored on a follow shot and made a 3-pointer.
In just 3 1 / 2 minutes, he had taken the U.S. from down two to an increase of 10, and never really recovered Lithuania.
The Lithuanians beat his eight points in his first three quarterfinal victories against Argentina, but the outside shot was not falling Saturday. They hit only three of 12 in the first half, and still fell just eight minutes from time with 3 before thunder struck – Oklahoma City Thunder.
Durant and Westbrook combined for nine straight points, extending the lead to 42-25. U.S. took a lead of 15 points in the first half.
The Americans extended the lead to 19 in the third quarter and continued to run even if Lithuania bit, I could never get within single digits. Durant finished with 14 of 25 from the field and added nine rebounds in 38 minutes before taking a seat with 44 seconds remaining.
Robertas Javtokas had 15 points and nine rebounds for Lithuania, which lost for the first time and will play for bronze. Kleiza, who was averaging 19.1 points, was limited to four in one-of-11 shots.
Odom said he played on 11 September was “an incredible moment for us all.” Born in New York, said it lost high school friends in the terrorist attacks against the United States nine years ago, and the U.S. Coach Mike Krzyzewski also said he knew people who died.
“So to play and represent his country, is a great thing,” Odom said.
The Americans came in averaging 95 points and led the tournament in many other categories. But that was four years ago, too, and none of that mattered when Greece will execute in the last three quarters in the 101-95 victory in the semifinals.
That was the last disappointment U.S. in an event that was won only three times. Krzyzewski had lost in the semifinals of two previous appearances, with his team of college players to win a bronze medal in 1990.
Americans now have a golden opportunity, and with it a berth fully in the Olympic games in 2012. Many of the stars have indicated they may return to, so it is not known how many of these players will be back.
One thing is clear: There will be a place for Durant.
“Actually no one can guard, really,” Gordon said. “He is well in the NBA and is the translation of here.”
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