Istanbul, Turkey Before it can win a world championship, the United States needed to start looking like a world champion.
Kevin Durant, Chauncey Billups and the rest of the Americans finally had that appearance Monday, powering into the quarterfinals with a 121-66 victory over Angola.
“Obviously we want to stay humble, but at the same time we have to know that we can do it,” forward Kevin Love said. “We know regardless of what people are saying, that we still are the favorites and we should play and really act like it, too.”
They did, opening the knockout round with a quick knockout.
With Billups scoring 16 of his 19 points and Durant all of his 17 in the first half, the Americans saved their most impressive performance in Istanbul for the elimination stage, overwhelming the Angolans from the start after a couple of lackluster performances to close the group stage.
“We don’t want to be a team that’s going to turn it on and off,” Durant said. “I think of course we’re playing with a little more sense of urgency when you know if you lose, you go home. Guys came out and responded from those last two games.”
The U.S. forced turnovers that led to easy baskets, and when forced into the halfcourt, shot 18-of-38 from three-point range, one three off the team record in the world championships.