LONDON, ENGLAND-- A 42-point third quarter that included five 3-pointers from Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder) helped the U.S Olympic Men's Basketball Team (5-0) take control in the second half and pave its way to a 126-97 win over rival Argentina (3-2) in Olympic Games preliminary round play Monday night at the Olympic Park Basketball Arena in London, England.
Undefeated in preliminary round play, the USA advances to the quarterfinals as Group A's No. 1 seed, and will meet Australia (3-2), the No. 4 seed from Group B at 10:15 p.m. (5:15 p.m. EDT) on Aug. 8.
"They are a championship level team and for us to have a game like this going into the medal round is good," said USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Duke University). "I thought it was very hard fought game, and we played and outstanding second half. We got really good contributions not just from our starters, but from Iguodala and Love. (Getting) on the boards and getting points, they were significant factors for us tonight. We are excited to get into the medal round."
While the USA shot a solid 51.1 percent from the field (45-88 FGs), a blazing 51.3 percent from 3-point (20-39 3pt FGs) and U.S. tournament high 80.0 percent from the free throw line (16-20 FTs), six U.S. players reached double digits and all 12 scored as the USA dished out 29 assists on its 45 field goals.
Durant shot 8-of-10 from 3-point to lead the USA with 28 points, and added four rebounds, four assists and three steals. LeBron James (Miami Heat) finished with 18 points and five assist, despite playing fewer than six minutes in the second half due to foul trouble and just 22 minutes overall. Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers) dished out seven assists and was 5-of-6 from 3-point to finish with 17 points; Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves) and Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers) contributed 13 points and game highs of nine rebounds apiece; and Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers) rounded out the USA's double-digit scorers with 11 points.
"It was one of those times ... I've probably had that feeling three or four times before that every time I catch it, I feel like it's going to go in, but it wasn't just me," Durant said. "My teammates did a good job of giving me confidence first off. Also, just finding me. They're passing up shots to give me the ball, and that's a great feeling. I just try to do my part and make the shot."
While Argentina put the first points on the board, Durant accounted for the first of seven U.S. 3-pointers in the stanza at 9:25 to start the USA off. Trailing 14-8 after a three from Bryant at 7:24, Argentina managed its largest run of the first half with seven consecutive points to lead 15-14 at 5:57.
Bryant ended the drought with two made free throws before Durant put the USA up 19-15 with another make from deep at 4:51. The U.S. lead stretched to as many as five points before Argentina again fought back and led 30-29 with a 3-pointer at 1:01. Two free throws from Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks) and then a third 3-pointer from Durant helped the USA take a 34-32 lead after the first quarter.
"Tonight's game was so much fun," Paul said. "Anyone who is involved in athletics knows that there are these ups and downs over the course of a game. I give Argentina a lot of credit. They pushed us they made us compete, and that's what you want to do."
The USA led by six points three different times in the first four minutes of the second quarter before Argentina charged back to take a one-point lead, 48-47, off of consecutive 3-pointers from Leonardo Gutierrez and then a three-point play by Juan Pedro Gutierrez at 3:37. The teams were nearly even from there, but the USA had restored a one-point lead, 60-59, at halftime.
After shooting 7-of-15 from 3-point in the first quarter, the USA finished the first half just 9-of-22 from deep. The trend again reversed in the third quarter, however, as the USA shot a lights-out 7-of-9 from behind the arc in the period to outscore Argentina 42-17 in the stanza and break the game open.
James started the third period with a turn-around jumper and then countered a three from Argentina with a 3-pointer of his own and scored again at 8:29 to put the USA ahead 67-62. Durant knocked in a three at 7:49, and the USA was off and running. Argentina managed two field goals over the next two minutes as the USA put up 12 points thanks to scores from four players to lead 79-66 at 5:51. Twelve of the USA's next 14 points belonged to Durant, who bookended a score by Love with four 3-pointers, including one from way beyond the 3-point arc at 1:53 to put the USA ahead 93-74 and inspire chants of U-S-A from the crowd.
"It wasn't like we had a different focus," James said of the third quarter. "We knew defensively in the first half we didn't play to our capabilities. We allowed them to get a lot of open shots, a lot of open looks, a lot of layups and that's not how we play the game of basketball defensively. We came out with a sense of urgency in the third quarter to step it up defensively, play more solid and not gamble as much, and then execute a little bit more on the offensive end."
Complete stats, box scores, quotes and photos available at www.usabasketball.com.
Courtesy of USA Basketball
BDN+ Access users
returning customers, please login here.