Team USA Knocks Off Argentina 126-97, Advances to Quarterfinals as Top Seed
Jenny Maag, USA Basketball
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."
With the game's momentum fully on its side, the USA went on to outscore Argentina 9-2 to close the period, and Anthony sank one more three at the buzzer to put the USA up 102-76.
Argentina never recovered, and the USA went on to outscore Argentina 24 to 21 to bring the game to its 126-97 final.
Outrebounding the South Americans 47-33, the USA recorded 32 second-chance points, as well as 27 points off of 16 Argentina turnovers.
Six players also reached double digits for Argentina, which was without point guard Pablo Prigioni. Manu Ginobili finished with 16 points, and Carlos Delfino added 13 points.
Also in Group A, Lithuania (2-3) topped Tunisia (0-5) to finish as the No. 4 and No. 6 seeds in Group A, meaning Lithuania advances to the quarterfinals while Tunisia does not. France (4-1), which earned the No. 2 seed out of Group A, beat Nigeria (1-4) 79-73, with Nigeria concluding its Olympic play as the No. 5 seed.
In Group B, Australia's (3-2) Patty Mills nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to propel his squad to an 82-80 victory over previously unbeaten Russia (4-1). Still Russia finished as the No. 1 seed from Group B, while Australia advanced as the No. 4 team. Great Britain (1-4) downed China (0-5) 90-58, but both teams finished their Olympic play as the No. 5 and No. 6 teams, respectfully; while Brazil (4-1) earned the No. 2 seed after recording an 88-82 win over Spain (3-2), which placed No. 3 in the group.
Other Aug. 8 quarterfinal matchups include Russia versus Lithuania at 2:00 p.m. (9:00 a.m. EDT), France against Spain at 4:15 p.m. (11:15 a.m. EDT) and Brazil versus Argentina at 8:00 p.m. (3:00 p.m. ED).
Olympic semifinal play is scheduled for Aug. 10, and the finals are on Aug. 12.
"We know it's one and done now," Love said of the Olympic format. "We know where we want to be on Aug. 12, and that's in the gold medal game at 3:00 p.m. We want to be standing at the top of the podium at the end of the game. We know what it's going to take, and we need to play like we did in the second half tonight."
Kevin Durant lifted the U.S. men's Olympic basketball team into the top seed in their group on Monday. Durant scored 17 of his 28 points during the Americans' explosive 42-point third quarter, and the U.S. beat Argentina 126-97
Durant, US Men Roll Over Argentina 126-97
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