Olympics

Tokyo Olympics: Team USA handles Czech Republic in must-win game to advance to Knockout Stage

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Kevin Durant, Jayson Tatum [NBA Getty Images]

Team USA needed a victory to guarantee a spot in the Knockout Stage and they weren't going to mess around with their medal hopes.

Czech Republic came out of the gate red-hot, but the United States countered quickly to get things back on track. Behind a masterful performance from Kevin Durant and a second-half explosion from Jayson Tatum, Team USA will advance out of the Group Stage with the opportunity to keep their four consecutive Gold medal streak alive.

For more on this commanding win, we have you covered with some takes below.

Kevin Durant: Team USA's all-time leading scorer

Durant entered this contest six points shy of Carmelo Anthony's all-time United States Olympic scoring record, and the 3-point bucket that surpassed that milestone was also the moment that the prolific scorer caught fire to allow Team USA to pull away.

Durant knocked down a 3-ball midway through the second quarter to become Team USA's all-time leading scorer and never looked back, going off for 23 points on a super efficient 8-for-11 shooting from the field and 4-for-7 shooting from 3.

It wasn't just his scoring, either. Durant dominated in all facets of the game, leading the United States with a team-high eight rebounds and six assists. Czech Republic had absolutely no answer for KD, who set the tone for his country in a must-win game.

Durant now has 354 total points for his career in a Team USA jersey at the Olympics. In pursuit of his fourth Gold medal (2008, 2012, 2016), he is making his case as the greatest player to ever don the Red, White and Blue.

Jayson Tatum's breakout performance

While we're all well aware of what Tatum is capable of doing on the court, he had yet to have a major performance at the Tokyo Olympics. He had nine points in Team USA's loss to France and 14 points in their blowout win over Iran, but he hadn't quite made his presence felt just yet.

That changed in a big way in the second half against Czech Republic, carrying the United States to the finish line in a dominating fashion.

Tatum erupted in the second half, finishing with a game-high 27 points on 10-for-16 shooting from the field and 5-for-6 shooting from 3. 21 of those 27 points came in the second half, as Tatum displayed the scoring prowess that we saw from a player who had four 50-point games in a Boston Celtics uniform this past season.

After the contest, the 23-year-old received high praise from his teammate Durant, who stated, in part, "this guy to the left of me (Tatum) is going to be the next guy to break the (Team USA Olympic scoring) record)."

Tatum is competing in his first-ever Olympics with Team USA and has a long way to go to catch Durant, but the United States' all-time leading scorer believes the young superstar is capable of achieving that milestone.

Can Czech Republic still advance?

No, they cannot.

Even with a loss, the Czech Republic could have had the opportunity to advance to the Knockout Stage, but because they lost by 35 points, that brings their point differential to -49 for the tournament.

Point differential is the first tiebreaker after standard win-loss record, and only two teams with a 1-2 record will advance. Germany (-16 point differential) is locked in to the Knockout Stage as one 1-2 team, with the winner of Argentina (-28) versus Japan (-46) claiming that final spot.

The Czechs inability to keep the game within a reasonable margin will cost them an opportunity to compete for their first-ever Olympic medal as an independent country.

What's next for Team USA?

Team USA will advance to the Knockout Stage, but their opponent and game time is still to be determined.

They join France, Australia, Italy, Slovenia, Spain and Germany as seven of the eight countries that have clinched a spot in the Knockout Stage. As mentioned, the winner of Argentina versus Japan will claim that final spot.

The Knockout Stage bracket will be set up following that result.

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