Kevin Durant was on fire again as the United States trounced Serbia 96-66 in the basketball final for the last gold medal on offer at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, which were closing later Sunday.
The 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player led the way with 30 points as the US overcame a sluggish first quarter by dominating the second 33-14 en route to a third gold in a row and 15th overall in the sport.
Durant was also the top scorer, with 30 points as well, in the 2012 Olympic tournament and its final against Spain.
"It was an amazing time. I am truly grateful for this opportunity. I am on Cloud Nine for sure," Durant said.
"We just wanted to play a good game. We came together at the right time, it was a huge win."
DeMarcus Cousins had 13 points and 15 rebounds on the afternoon, while Nemanja Nedovic paced Serbia with 14 points.
Carmelo Anthony, the only US player with Olympic experience other than Durant, became the most successful Olympic basketballer with a third personal gold, plus a bronze from 2004.
The 2016 class under coach Mike Krzyzewski may not have had quite the flair of past teams but overcame some testing group games with narrow wins over Australia, France and Serbia for another gold.
Krzyzewski and Anthony will now quit after a decade of success with the team and not be around for Tokyo 2020.
"I have given enough to Team USA basketball. As much as I am going to miss it I want to hand over to younger guys, give them an opportunity," Anthony said. "It's been a fun ride. I have seen the losing side but also three wins."
The Serbs, beaten just 94-91 in the group game, had hoped for a similarly close contest but were up to the task only in the first quarter as they lost almost as heavily against the US as in the 2014 World Cup final, which ended 129-92.
"It was a tough match in the end. We started pretty good but in the second quarter we didn't look like ourselves," Serbia's Stefan Markovic said.
"We didn't want to go like that. We have to congratulate them, they were better."
Sunday's victory also perfectly ended the overall US showing in Rio, where shooter Virginia Thrasher took home the first gold in the 306 events and the nation topped the final medal table with 121 medals from a 46-37-38 haul.
The game got off to a nervous start as it took almost a minute before Milan Macvan opened the scoring with a three-pointer for the Serbs.
DeAndre Jordan made it 3-2 but missed tying the match from the free-throw line, underlining that the NBA stars were not in the game yet, with Serbia making life difficult for them.
The quarter nonetheless ended 19-15 in the US' favour, thanks to a first three-pointer from Durant, but they also had two rare travelling violations, and the ball stolen four times.
Durant started a 9-0 run which woke up the team and the US led 52-29 by half-time as Durant raised his tally to 24 points thanks to five more three-pointers and two slam dunks.
The final two quarters were a mere formality but amid "we want more" chants from the US fans the points kept coming even though Krzyzewski brought out the reserves in the final quarter.
"This team just kept getting better. The pool games were a learning experience," Krzyzewski said, adding in the direction of Anthony and Durant: "I commend the leadership of our veterans for keeping us on course."
In the bronze medal match, Sergio Rodriguez converted two free throws with 5.4 seconds left as Spain salvaged an 89-88 victory over Australia who finished fourth a fourth time the past seven Olympics.
Rodriguez drew a foul from Patty Mills and stayed cool on his only free throws of the match for victory. Pau Gasol paced Spain with 31 points, while Mills led the way for the Boomers with 30.
Saturday, August 20, 2016 - 22:24