Jul 29, 2012; London, United Kingdom; USA players Russell Westbrook (7) and LeBron James (middle) celebrate after the men's basketball preliminary against France during the 2012 London Olympic Games at the Basketball Arena. Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
By Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY
LONDON-It's one thing to have six NBA players, including an All-Star, on an Olympics roster.
It's another thing to have 10 All-Stars, including two MVPs (guard Kobe Bryant and forward LeBron James) and possibly a third someday (forward Kevin Durant), on an Olympics roster.
So while some of the French players can compete against U.S. players, it is difficult for France, as a team, to hang with the U.S. for four quarters.
After a tight first quarter, the U.S. pulled away from France and easily won its Olympic opener 98-71 Sunday.
France had few solutions for the 1-2 combination of James and Durant, possibly the best two players in the world who finished first and second in the 2011-12 NBA MVP voting.
James did what he almost always does - a lot of everything extremely well. He had nine points, five rebounds and eight assists, and Durant did what he does so well - score. He had 22 points.
And the U.S. also received an unexpected lift off the bench from forward Kevin Love, who had 14 points. Love had an uninspired exhibition performance. He didn't get many minutes in the first four exhibition games, but played well against Spain last week in the USA's final exhibition game.
USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo told USA TODAY Sports late last week that Love had not been playing to his capability but was encouraged by his game against Spain. It was probably encouraging for Colangelo and U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski to see Love play the way he did against France.
The U.S. will need Love's size and rebounding throughout the competition, especially if he plays like he did Sunday.
The U.S. shot 43% from the field, including 32% on three-pointers. But they outrebounded France 56-40.
Bryant had 10 points, and Carmelo Anthony added nine points and nine rebounds for the U.S.
It was far from flawless basketball - too many jump shots, silly fouls, poor shooting - but the U.S. men's basketball team wore down France with its talent, depth, speed and strength in the first half.
France's Tony Parker, who had 10 points, gave the U.S. trouble with his penetration and scoring, and had help from Florence Pietrus. But even with six NBA players, France had trouble staying with the American talent.
The U.S. took a 52-26 lead into halftime, outscoring France 30-15 in the second quarter.