SAITAMA, Japan — Kevin Durant got his record-setting work done early and then kicked back to celebrate.

The U.S. men’s basketball team defeated the Czech Republic, 119-84, at Saitama Super Arena on Saturday, improving to 2-1 in Group A play and advancing to the quarterfinals at the Tokyo Olympics.

The forceful comeback victory, keyed by Durant’s 23 points, qualified as a big relief for Team USA, which lost two July exhibitions, dropped its Olympic opener against France and trailed the Czech Republic for the entire first quarter.

“The losses at the beginning put a laser focus on how you have to play with these rules, in this environment, against these talented teams who execute wonderfully,” Team USA Coach Gregg Popovich said. “If you do not have respect for your opponent, you’re going to be in big trouble.”

Durant, who was saddled with foul trouble against France and picked his spots in a win over Iran, helped his team take control against the Czech Republic with back-to-back three-pointers in the second quarter. The first three, a pull-up from the right angle, moved him past Carmelo Anthony for the top spot on USA men’s basketball’s all-time Olympic scoring list. Durant, a two-time gold medalist, now has 354 points over three Olympics, surpassing Anthony’s 336 over four Olympics.

“I just think about all the players who have played in this program,” Durant said. “It's pretty cool to be amongst names like that. Carmelo is a guy that I played on two Olympic teams with, and I saw his approach to these games. I tried to steal some of his techniques. It's still pretty weird for me to do s--- like this. I play a team sport. I try my hardest to make it about the group.”

Durant’s increasing intensity was a welcome sign for the Americans — whose offensive attack has alternated between choppy and ruthless — and a scary sight for their competition. In addition to his scoring, the Brooklyn Nets forward finished with eight rebounds and six assists as he shot 8 for 11 from the field and 4 for 7 from outside. Team USA outscored the Czech Republic by 23 points in his 27 minutes of action, and a locked-in Durant will be a nightmare to defend, even for top-performing opponents with NBA wings such as Australia and France.

After helping the U.S. squad take its first lead midway through the second quarter, Durant cranked up the defensive effort and stayed hot from the outside in the third. The Czech Republic, which has just two players with NBA experience, couldn’t keep up. Throughout the fourth quarter, Durant had a towel over his shoulders and a smile on his face as he watched his teammates finish off a second straight blowout win.

“I don’t want to be a liability anywhere,” Durant said. “I don’t want to feel like my coaches can’t trust me in any situation. … It’s just fun to mix it up and do other things. Scoring is a thing I love to do, and people know me for scoring, but my game has expanded and I feel like I can do everything at a high level.”

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, who hadn’t made much of an impact in Team USA’s first two games, scored a game-high 27 points off the bench, turning it up in the fourth quarter to ensure the starters could rest down the stretch. Blake Schilb led the Czech Republic with 17 points.

Despite the breezy ending, Team USA’s shaky first quarter again revealed that its undersized front line is potentially vulnerable inside. Czech Coach Ronen Ginzburg said his team found success early by attacking smaller defenders on switches; U.S. guard Devin Booker fouled out in less than 10 minutes of action in part because he was being hunted in mismatches against bigger players.

“[The Americans] are the biggest favorite for the gold medal, but they’re not going to have it easy,” said Czech Republic guard Tomas Satoransky, who plays for the Chicago Bulls. “They obviously play small ball, like [the modern] game in the NBA. A lot of European teams especially have a lot of bigs, old-school bigs. France was able to have some advantage in the post when [the Americans] were switching on defense. If you play smart against them and try to push the ball inside against smaller defenders, you’re going to have some chances.”

The Americans joined five other teams that have claimed spots in the eight-team knockout phase of the tournament: Australia, France, Italy, Slovenia and Spain. Argentina, Germany and Japan remain in the mix for the last two spots, pending the final day of group play Sunday. The Czech Republic, Iran and Nigeria have been eliminated.

The eight quarterfinal teams will be split into four-team pods. Team USA will join the three group winners in the top pod thanks to its impressive plus-82 point differential, which was the highest margin by any second-place group finisher.

The U.S. squad, which finished second in Group A, will therefore avoid Australia, France and the winner of Sunday’s game between Spain and Slovenia in the quarterfinals, which begin Tuesday. That leaves Italy and the loser of Sunday’s game between Spain and Slovenia as Team USA’s next possible opponents.

“One team at a time is all that I can handle,” Popovich said. “I’ll just wait until Sunday night and then I’ll know who we play. They’re all very good teams, obviously. This Olympics is only going to get better as far as basketball is concerned.”

Read below for highlights from the game.