Kevin Durant scored 28 points as the US silenced a raucous home crowd and beat Turkey 81-64 on Sunday to win the gold medal at the world basketball championship.
With Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and other US stars skipping the tournament, this US group was called a “B-Team,” but Durant led them to a first world title since 1994 and fourth overall to restore US prestige on the international stage.
“Our only option was to come out here and get a gold and it feels really good to bring this back home to the States,” Durant said.
Lamar Odom added 15 points and 11 rebounds for the US.
Hedo Turkoglu of the Phoenix Suns scored 16 points for the Turks, who were bidding for their first title and were boosted by huge crowd support, with fans in red filling most of the 15,000-seat Sinan Erdem Dome.
The whistling was so loud when US players were introduced that it was hard to make out the names.
Durant, who scored 33 and 38 points in the previous two games, again led the offense. He made seven three-pointers.
Durant, the NBA scoring champion at Oklahoma City, was voted the most valuable player of the championship. He left the court with 42 seconds left and shared a long hug with coach Mike Krzyzewski, who finally won the world title after his previous two attempts ended with bronze medals.
“I thought we rallied and we became a little bit of an unconventional team,” Krzyzewski said. “We thought we could win, we just felt it would be a lot harder and they worked real hard and they made it happen.”
The Turkish team fell short of becoming the fourth host to win the world championship and first since Yugoslavia in 1970.
The Turkish players were a step slow and consistently beaten on the boards, perhaps drained from their thrilling 83-82 victory over Serbia in Saturday’s late game.
The US already knew they’d be bringing a different team to Turkey after all the gold medalists from the 2008 Olympics opted to take this summer off. Then, All-Star forwards Amare Stoudemire and David Lee were forced to withdraw on the opening day of training camp.
The US were left with a young team, featuring six players 22 or younger and only one true center in Tyson Chandler, who quickly became a backup when forward Odom was installed as the starter.
The US produced where many of their bigger-name predecessors couldn’t four years ago at the worlds in Japan. They began to silence the raucous home crowd midway through the second quarter with a superb defensive effort.
Durant scored 20 points in the first half, then hit consecutive three-pointers early in the third quarter, yelling at Turkish fans sitting courtside and pounding his chest after the second, as the US quickly extended a 10-point halftime lead.
There were more whistles and boos every time the US had the ball in the early going and the building was at its loudest when Turkoglu made consecutive three-pointers to give Turkey its first lead at 15-14 with 4:07 remaining in the first quarter.
The US held Turkey to one field goal over the first six minutes of the second quarter, extending the lead to 10 on a three-pointer by Durant. The US were ahead 42-32 at halftime.
Lithuania beat Serbia 99-88 to claim the bronze earlier in the day, Linas Kleiza scoring 33 points to help his side earn a first world basketball championship medal.