Inspired by memory of 9/11, Durant propels U.S. to finals

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Kevin Durant is unlike most of America's biggest basketball stars. He couldn't wait to wear the red, white and blue this summer.

Especially on Sept. 11.

With a special memorial message on his sneakers, Durant carried the United States into the gold-medal game at the world championship in Istanbul, scoring a U.S.-record 38 points Saturday in an 89-74 victory over Lithuania.

"I just wanted to remember everybody back in the States, everybody that was affected by 9/11," Durant said.

"And to play on this day was a great honor and we just tried to do our best to play hard for our country and our families."

Durant soared over defenders or stepped away from them for 3-pointers, scoring 17 in the first quarter to stake the Americans to an early lead that was never seriously challenged.

He went on to surpass Carmelo Anthony's single-game record of 35 points and raise his average in the tournament to 22.1, which would be the best ever by a U.S. player.

"I've seen him score 45, 35, back-to-back," guard and Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook said. "It doesn't surprise me at all what he's been doing."

More importantly, Durant guaranteed the Americans a chance at their first world title since 1994. They will play Turkey for the title today.

"That's what we came here to do," guard Eric Gordon said. "We're a young team and we fight through a lot of adversity and that's what we're here for, to win the gold."

There was some doubt this team was the one that could end the U.S. drought after all the superstars from the 2008 Olympic gold medalists declined to play this summer. But Durant kept saying yes, and he's on the verge of going down as the most accomplished U.S. player ever in this event.

Durant posted a message on his Twitter page Saturday that read: "May God bless those who were effected by the events on Sept 11, 2001....9-11-01 on my shoes tonight..you guys will watch over us.."

Then he went out and dominated the first quarter, shooting at the basket in front of section 324, which was completely awash in Lithuania green with fans banging drums and waving flags.

Lamar Odom added 13 points and 10 rebounds.

WNBA FINALS: Kathy Betty saved a basketball team.

Then it helped save her.

"Personally, this has meant everything to me," said Betty, who owns the WNBA's Atlanta Dream. "I have so much joy in my life again."

She was still grieving the loss of her husband, EarthLink CEO and president Garry Betty, when someone suggested that she buy the Dream. She laughed off the idea at first, then realized it was everything she and her husband stood for during a marriage that was cut way too short.

Garry Betty died from cancer in January 2007. He was only 49.

"I'm a happy person by nature," Kathy Betty said. "I knew it would take some time, but I would be ready to move on at some point. Still, in the back of your mind, you wonder if you'll ever really have joy again."

Holding back the tears with a smile, she adds, "I do. And it came through the Dream."

The team surpassed her wildest expectations by sweeping two playoff series to reach the WNBA finals. The best-of-five series opens today in Seattle.


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