TOKYO — Once again, the U.S. men’s basketball team struggled in a first half against a tough opponent.
Once again, the Americans silenced doubts by finding their rhythm and pulling away for victory, this time in a semifinal match against Australia, winning 97-78 and heading to the gold medal game on Saturday.
Australia, ranked No. 3 in the world, led at the half, 45-42.
But the United States took control in the second half, backed by Kevin Durant’s 23 points and Devin Booker’s 20.
The U.S. team, ranked No. 1 in the world, made it to the semifinal after defeating Spain on Tuesday, 95-81, despite a similarly sluggish start.
The Americans are trying to rewrite their story line from curiously questionable team to strong finisher, if not gold medalist.
After two exhibition losses before the start of the Games, including to Australia, the United States started its Olympic campaign with a loss to France. The Americans mostly cruised through their next two contests — against far weaker opponents, Iran and the Czech Republic — and had some time to establish some rhythm as a group.
The U.S. is 9-0 against Australia in the Olympics.
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