The U.S. men’s basketball team launched their Olympic title defense with a joyful display of high-flying skill, soaring past France 98-71 on Sunday.
No-look assists, alley-oop passes for thunderous dunks and sublime ball-handling drew oohs and ahs from a packed Olympic Basketball Arena crowd on the opening day of action in the men’s basketball tournament.
EuroBasket silver medalists France, whose preparation for the Games was hampered due to problems with several of their top players, kept it close in the early going before the U.S. team cut loose.
The Americans blew it open after a 22-21 first quarter by scoring the first 11 points of the second quarter and then raised their game even higher.
Kevin Durant led the way with 22 points, with Kevin Love coming off the bench to contribute 14 inside points.
Ali Traore led France with 12 points, and Tony Parker scored 10.
LeBron James only put nine points on the scoreboard, but had a hand in a number of highlight moments, making a jaw-dropping bounce pass through traffic covering two-thirds of the court to hit Kevin Durant going to the basket.
After one nifty, no-look drop off pass from James Harden, “King” James finished at the hoop with a ferocious slam that moved him to hang swaying from the rim for an extra few seconds to celebrate.
Next up for the U.S. team will be Tunisia, while France play a key game against Argentina on Tuesday.