U.S. men rally past Australia, will play for basketball gold

The U.S. men’s basketball team turned a close game into a 97-78 rout of Australia on Thursday to advance to the gold-medal game at the Olympics in Saitama, Japan.

The Americans will vie for the championship on Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET against the winner of Thursday’s Slovenia-France game.

Team USA prevailed thanks to a 48-14 run over the second and third quarters, rebounding from a slow start that saw them trail 41-26.

Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant had 23 points on 10-of-19 shooting to go with a game-high nine rebounds for the United States. The Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker contributed 20 points, hitting 3 of 5 attempts from 3-point range, and some top-quality defense.

Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday had 11 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

Newly signed Brooklyn guard Patty Mills (15 points), Dante Exum (14) and Jock Landale (11) scored in double figures for Australia.

Durant recognized Australia’s plan for a quick start.

“I think (teams) wanna get us down early in hopes that we panic,” Durant said on NBC after the victory. “We didn’t. … We came out in the third quarter with amazing energy and fight.”

Along with Booker, Durant helped lead the defensive charge.

“I feel like everybody is making second and third efforts on the defensive side of the ball,” he said.

The U.S. outrebounded the Aussies 44-29.