USA basketball continued to steamroll its way through the FIBA World Championships, pasting Angola by a 121-66 count Monday behind a team-high 19 points from previously-struggling point guard Chauncey Billups.
Billups scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half, the same span that saw Kevin Durant net all 17 of his, as the Americans opened up as much as a 29-point lead. Team USA led 33-13 after one dominant period of play.
The win vaults Team USA into the quarterfinals, and does so in emphatic fashion, ending perhaps the biggest criticism of the current squad. The Americans hadn't lost yet during the preliminary rounds, but they hadn't managed to put together a totally dominant effort, either. Those waiting for Team USA to stake claim to the role as the team to beat kept pounding the drum for a thorough and convincing effort.
And boy did they get it.
A 20-point lead after one quarter. Thirty points or more in three of the four periods. Thirty assists on 41 field goals, all with just five turnovers. It was the kind of efficient, decisive performance Team USA has been itching to deliver and an anxious fan base had been craving for weeks.
Does this make the US the gold medal winner? No. Could the squad just as easily turn in a stinker next time out? You bet, especially with a roster featuring more youth than experience.
But for at least a day Team USA looked like the class of the tournament, which is what we all expected when things got started anyway.
It was only one game, only one blowout. But it showed a dominant side Team USA had yet to reveal.
Which is all anyone was waiting to see anyway.