Durant had struggled to score during a recent exhibition tour, prompting James to give his close friend and teammate a pep talk.
"I told K.D. to be himself," James said. "We need the K.D. who scores. We don't need the K.D. who defers."
Unlike his peers, Krzyzewski has the luxury of a deep bench and he was forced to go it early and often in the first half, when the Americans got into four trouble. They were called for 18 personals and complained about some of the calls. Anthony and Russell Westbrook spent the final six minutes of the second quarter on the bench after picking up their third fouls.
"There were a lot of calls that didn't seem right," Anthony said. "One time down the floor they called it this way and one time they called it that way."
Along with the questionable calls, the Americans took some curious shots early on, and when France's Yannick Bokolo drained a 3 in the final second of the first quarter, France was within 22-21.
Nicolas Batum, who plays for Portland, thought the U.S. might "panic."
But James opened the second quarter with a 3, the U.S. quickly went on an 11-0 run and by midway through the third, Bryant and Co. restored order.
As the U.S. reserves scored on dunk after dunk in the fourth, James and Bryant lounged on the bench.
They know there will be tougher games ahead.
The first one, though, was over.
"We knew this game wasn't going to be easy," Durant said. "We know even if we don't start well we can finish."
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