TOKYO — A day after USA basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo defended his Olympic roster, predicted a gold medal and criticized Kevin Love, Team USA made him look prescient.
After a sluggish first quarter, USA blew out the Czech Republic 119-84, in what essentially was an elimination game, to improve to 2-1 and advance to the Olympic quarterfinals.
Kevin Durant became the top scorer in American Olympic history, scoring 23 points by making eight of his 11 field goal attempts and all four of his free throws. Jayson Tatum led the team in scoring with 27 points, and the U.S. made 21 of 25 shots to start the second half in its most impressive outing of the summer, but it was two Team USA members related to women who own Olympic gold medals who wound up raving about the Olympic experience.
Jrue Holiday, fresh off winning an NBA title with Milwaukee, flew to Tokyo to join Team USA. He has improved the team's offensive flow and defensive intensity. His wife, Lauren Holiday, won two Olympic golds with the U.S. soccer team.
JaVale McGee's mother, Pam, was a WNBA star who won an Olympic gold with the women's basketball team in Los Angeles. She used to sit courtside when he played for Denver, yelling instructions to him.
McGee was added to the roster when Kevin Love left the team. Colangelo, in a conference call with reporters this week, said that Love, the former Timberwolf, wasn't "in shape."
McGee, on Saturday night in Tokyo, said, "I'm in great shape. I have an amazing work ethic."
Holiday, teammate Khris Middleton and the Suns' Devin Booker joined the team after the NBA Finals.
Team USA is missing an all-world team. LeBron James, Steph Curry, Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard aren't playing because of injuries or personal reasons.
Holiday may be the only boost the current roster needed.
Known for his good works and strong defense, Holiday has earned raves from Team USA coach Gregg Popovich.
"He's an individual of high character, highly intelligent, and he has a huge heart on top of all that," Popovich said. "He's in a way like the meanest man in the valley, but you'd never know it because of his quiet demeanor and his kindness.
"He's an all-around wonderful human being. His entry onto the team, late as it was, has had an immediate effect, because he garners so much respect from his teammates. Special guy."
Team USA lacks size and before Holiday arrived didn't have a pure point guard.
They have had the ability to use Durant as a spot-up shooter, point forward and long-armed, versatile defender.
"I've had a lot asked of me on every team I've played on since I was eight years old," Durant said. "I feel I have to be prepared to do every single thing on the court. I want my coaches to trust me in every situation. My game has expanded and I feel I can do everything at a high level."
The U.S. will play in the quarterfinals on Tuesday, perhaps against Ricky Rubio and Spain. They may be peaking at the right time — or they may have gotten the right reinforcements at the right time.
Holiday somehow went directly from the fatigue and emotion of winning an NBA title at the end of a long season to flying halfway around the world and immediately helping a struggling team.
Was that hard? "Not really," Holiday said. "I mean, I had already been playing. Just kind of a quick turnaround, you know? Two days there, and we left, and then literally the day that we got here, we played that night. So I got some sleep and got ready to play."
Team USA looks fully awake heading into the quarterfinals.
They lost to Nigeria before the Olympics, then lost the Olympic opener to France. An easy victory over Iran didn't prove much.
The Czech Republic, while not a powerhouse, gave the U.S. trouble early in the game, before the U.S. increased its defensive intensity.
Asked how he would describe the team's confidence level, Holiday said, "Extreme."