OK, look, Team USA wasn’t losing to Iran.
Iran is No. 23 in the World and, thus, is among the best of the 168 ranked by FIBA. However, it’s also the lowest-ranked team to have qualified for the Olympics, so a stomping from the still-No. 1 ranked Team USA was to be expected … just perhaps not exactly like this, given their loss to France over the weekend.
The smoothest play of the game came at the 15-second mark in the above video, where Team USA took a double-digit lead following a three-pointer. The sequence began with a Kevin Durant dribble-drive along the baseline, finding an open Draymond Green cutting in from the top of the key. If it were most other centers, that probably would’ve been a dunk attempt, but this is what makes Draymond, Draymond. Instead, Green — drawing multiple defenders — turns around and kicks it to Damian Lillard who is behind the three-point line. Lillard waits for the defense to close out and finds Khris Middleton on the left-wing, who does the same and hits a wide-open Durant now on the left corner. Bang!
Before you knew it, a 10-point lead became 20, became 30 — 60-30 at halftime, to be exact — and so on, until Team USA won 120-66, a whopping 54 points, which is relevant in Olympic play because margins of victory could serve as tiebreakers in special situations, though record and head-to-head play come first. Lillard led with 21 points and five assists. Devin Booker added 16 and three steals.
Because of Team USA’s 83-76 loss to France, it’s 1-1 in their group, as is the Czech Republic, who France defeated 97-77 this morning (morning in the United States, that is). Currently, in Group A, Team USA has a +47 point differential because of its massive win over Iran following up their narrow loss to France. On Saturday morning, Team USA will face the Czech Republic, which finished ahead of them in the 2019 FIBA World Cup and is led by Chicago Bulls guard Tomáš Satoranský.
A win would guarantee its spot in the quarterfinals, but France, who’ll likely finish 3-0 after beating Iran on Saturday, will take the group’s first seed. Because basketball has switched from two groups of six to three groups of four, two of the three third-place teams in the group will also advance to the knockout stage, along with, obviously, the top two teams from each group. The third-place teams will be ranked amongst one another, and the top two will advance based on their performance.
Team USA, even with a loss to the Czech Republic, should advance so long as it don’t get their ass whooped because of the point differential it curated in the win over Iran. However, you also don’t want to limp into the knockout stage if you’re vying for a gold medal. For those of you who don’t understand any of this shit, that would be like going into the NBA playoffs as a No. 7 or No. 8 seed, the NFL playoffs as a No. 5 or No. 6, or into March Madness as a double-digit. If you could help it, you’d obviously want better for yourself.