For the second game in a row, the United States started slowly, but came away with the win anyway.
In a game that most considered over before it even started, Venezuela executed their game-plan to perfection in the first quarter and ended the period tied with the gold medal-favorite.
A combination of sloppiness and scrappy Venezuelan effort forced the United States into seven turnovers in the first quarter alone. The U.S. was disjointed on offense and the open shots they did manage routinely clanked off the rim or missed the hoop entirely, like one notable Klay Thompson three-point try.
To their credit, the Venezuelans slowed the pace and took away the American’s biggest weapon, their transition offense. When the U.S. did get out and push the pace, their decision making was often subpar as they looked for the highlight play rather than the easy one.
On defense the United States was equally as sloppy, committing 11 fouls in the opening period. Venezuela capitalized on the opportunity and scored nine of their 18 first-quarter points at the charity stripe.
Carmelo Anthony, playing in his U.S. record 25th Olympic game, helped to turn the momentum midway in the second quarter. A swipe-block by Anthony on Gregory Echenique led to a triple for the two-time gold medalist on the other end and helped to spur the U.S. to a 24-4 run to finish the half.
After coming out of the first quarter even with Venezuela, the U.S. entered the break with a 22-point lead. Kevin Durant, who scored the team’s first 7 points of the game, and Anthony led the team in scoring at halftime, with eleven and ten points, respectively.
Playing the United States for the first time in Olympic play, Venezuela continued to play the U.S. tough in the third quarter, the outcome was never in doubt in the second half.
Anthony finished with 14 points, three rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block. He is just 12 points shy of setting the all-time mark for most point in U.S. basketball history.
Paul George scored a team-high 20 points off the bench, while Durant totalled 16 points, 2 rebounds and four assists. Anchored by George, the U.S. benefitted from a big performance from their bench, which combined for 70 points.
For Venezuela, John Cox led the way with 19. Cox is the cousins of two-time gold medalist Kobe Bryant.
The United States improves to 2-0 in the Rio Olympics and will face Australia on Wednesday in a battle of the unbeatens in Group A. Australia won a hard fought victory over Serbia on Monday after blowing out France over the weekend.