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July 30, 2012

U.S. men's basketball team cruises

LONDON (AP) — The hiccups outnumbered the highlights, and for a while the U.S. racked up fouls faster than points.

The opener wasn’t artistic.

However, it was enough — easily enough.

Kevin Durant scored 22 points in his Olympic debut, Kevin Love added 14 and LeBron James had eight assists as the American men’s basketball team overcame some sloppy moments with a 98-71 win yesterday over France.

“We know everybody else expects us to win by 40 points,” said Carmelo Anthony. “For us, a win’s a win. We expect every game to be like this one.”

Seeking a second straight gold medal to match the redemptive one they captured in Beijing four years ago, the Americans expected a tough test from a French team featuring San Antonio guard Tony Parker and five other NBA players. And although the U.S. was never in real trouble — it only led 22-21 after one quarter — there were enough flaws (14 turnovers, 26 fouls) to keep coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff busy and this superstar-laden squad from feeling too comfortable.

“It wasn’t perfect,” said James, who only took six shots while setting up his teammates. “We’ve still got room for improvement. We had too many turnovers, too many fouls and we had a couple of defensive rebounds we could have come up with. But overall, we played a pretty good game for as close to 40 minutes as possible.”

Kobe Bryant had said this team could beat the 1992 Dream Team that changed international hoops forever at the Barcelona Games. That matchup is mythical, but the London Games aren’t and this U.S. team will have to play much better in upcoming games if it plans to maintain American dominance.

“We know we have to keep going for 40 minutes and play hard,” said Bryant, who only played 12 minutes.

Afterward, Parker, who nearly missed these games after undergoing surgery for a freak eye injury, didn’t want to concede anything to the Americans. But when asked if the U.S. team can be beat, he took a contemplative pause before responding.

“They’re going to be very, very tough to beat,” Parker said.

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