US NBA stars rip France in Olympics opener

LONDON - Kevin Durant scored 22 points to lead the United States team of NBA stars over France 98-71 on Sunday, July 29 in their opening game of the Olympic men's basketball tournament.

Durant, the reigning NBA scoring champion, produced two electrifying back-to-back slam dunks in the early minutes -- one off a half-court-length pass from LeBron James in a game that became a romp after the opening quarter.

The American NBA stars greeted US First Lady Michelle Obama after the game, each player and coach receving a hug in congratulation for the victory.

The Americans improved to 55-1 in international play since revamping their program after settling for a shocking bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Kevin Love added 14 points for the NBA multi-millionaire squad while Kobe Bryant had 10 points and James and Carmelo Anthony each scored nine.

Ali Traore led France with 12 points while San Antonio Spurs playmaker Tony Parker added 10 in the Group A round-robin opener.

Dominant USA

In their first Olympic meeting since the US squad outlasted France 85-75 in the 2000 Sydney final, the Americans served notice early that this matchup would not have such drama in the final minutes.

The US NBA stars led only 22-21 after the first quarter, but began the second quarter with an 11-0 run, stretching the margin to 12 points and keeping the French fighting an uphill battle.

The Americans pulled ahead 52-36 by half-time and from there it was simply a dominant US side flexing its muscles, inspring some screams of delight from fans on slam dunks including those by James, Chris Paul and James Harden.

The French have enough NBA talent to field a full team of such players, but were without a full lineup, in part due to injuries.

They still boasted guard Tony Parker, a playmaker from the NBA San Antonio Spurs, captain Boris Diaw and Ronny Turiaf, a centre who played alongside James on the NBA champion Miami Heat. -