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USA thrash Iran to get Olympic basketball challenge back on track

The USA easily beat Iran 120-66 in the Olympic men’s basketball tournament on Wednesday to bounce back from their shock opening defeat — and players and coaches from the geopolitical rivals chatted afterwards.

The Americans had their 25-game Olympic winning streak snapped by France in their first game but Damian Lillard scored 21 points and Devin Booker had 16 points in a straightforward win against the Iranians.

Kevin Durant had another low-key game with 10 points but he was one of six Americans in double figures in Saitama.

Hamed Haddadi and Mohammadsamad Nik Khahbahrami each scored 14 points for Iran, against the team of NBA stars.

US coach Gregg Popovich spoke with his Iranian opposite number Mehran Shahintab after the game and said: “People generally get along and appreciate each other, no matter what country you are talking about. I really believe that.

“This is a time where sport transcends all of the petty crap you get from governments.

“There is no surprise that coaches would enjoy meeting each other and the players would show sportsmanship.”

France wrapped up top spot in Group A with a game to spare thanks to a comfortable 97-77 win over the Czech Republic, who the Americans must beat in their last pool game to qualify for the quarter-finals.

Boston Celtics guard Evan Fournier backed up his virtuoso display against the USA with 21 points for the French.

Australia also reached the last eight with a dramatic 86-83 victory against Italy, for whom Simone Fontecchio and Golden State Warriors’ Nico Mannion both scored over 20 points in a losing cause.

Nigeria’s hopes of reaching the quarters are hanging by a thread, though, following a 99-92 defeat by Germany.

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