Tatum, Durant power USA into the quarters

Kevin Durant broke a couple of records as USA powered into the Olympic quarter-finals.
Kevin Durant broke a couple of records as USA powered into the Olympic quarter-finals.

The US lost their first two exhibition games of the summer in Las Vegas, dropped their opening game at these Olympics and had a difficult time overcoming the Czech Republic in their group finale - but none of that matters now.

For the Americans are headed to the quarter-finals at the Tokyo Games, with a shot of being good as gold once again.

Jayson Tatum scored 27 points, Kevin Durant added 23 and set a pair of USA Basketball men's Olympic records, as the US defeated the Czechs 119-84 on Saturday to clinch a place in the knock-out stages.

Zach LaVine scored 13 points, Jrue Holiday had 11 and JaVale McGee finished with 10 points for the US.

The Americans shot 7 for 20 in the first quarter - then made 33 of 44 shots over the next 26 minutes, including a staggering 21-for-25 start to the second half.

The US (2-1) finished second behind France in Group A, but will join the French, Australia and the winner of Sunday's game between Slovenia and Spain as a top-four seed for Tuesday's quarter-finals, based on FIBA's tiebreaker system that includes point differential.

Those quarter-final match-ups will be decided in a draw on Sunday night, but the US now won't have to face any of the three group winners until at least the semi-finals.

The Czechs caused a late scare for the favourites, though, with Blake Schilb scoring 17 for the European team which had led by 10 points early and were still ahead 60-54 midway through the third quarter.

In a flash, the Czech hope of a stunner ended there.

Durant, who passed Carmelo Anthony as both the US Olympic men's all-time points and all-time field goals leader during the game, hit a three-pointer to end the third quarter, capping a 22-6 run that put the Americans up by 22 going into the final quarter.

The outcome was not in doubt again.

Australian Associated Press