The United States played inspired basketball to beat Russia, 89-79, to advance to the semifinal round of the FIBA World Championship. Prior to their quarterfinals match, there were exchange of words between US coach Mike Krzyzewski and American coach David Blatt that reopened wounds of the US loss to Russia in 1972 at the Olympic games that was quite unusual in the post-Cold War era.
Kevin Durant led the US attack with 33 points, with 19 points scored in the first half wherein the Americans took the lead from a 30-35 deficit. Chauncey Billups and Russell Westbrook provided the much needed support with 15 and 12 points respectively. Team USA turned up their defense in the second quarter to lead at the half, 44-39.
The Russians were missing forward Andrei Kirilenko of the Utah Jazz. Kirilenko was the team’s Most Valuable Player when they won the 2007 European Championship. They got good contributions though from Sergey Bykov, Andrei Borontsevich and the New York Knicks’ Timofrey Mozgov.
The United States basketball squad faces Lithuania in the semifinals on Saturday. Lithuania defeated Argentina in the other quarterfinals match to earn a semifinals spot.