The U.S. men’s basketball team used another third-quarter spurt to keep its record perfect at the London Olympics and set up a gold-medal rematch with Spain.
Kevin Durant, 23, of the National Basketball Association’s Oklahoma City Thunder led the U.S. with 19 points, including five 3-pointers, in a 109-83 win last night against Argentina. LeBron James, 27, of the Miami Heat and Carmelo Anthony, 28, of the New York Knicks added 18 points each for the Americans. Manu Ginobili, 35, of the San Antonio Spurs led Argentina with 18 points.
The U.S. led 47-40 at halftime before outscoring the Argentines 27-17 in the third quarter. Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers had 16 points as Spain beat Russia 67-59 yesterday in the semifinals. The Americans beat Spain for the championship in Beijing four years ago.
“In the third quarter, we just really got good rhythm and started pushing the ball a bit more,” U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters. “We started hitting shots and that was infectious, we got on a big roll.”
Argentina, the Americans’ opponent in a third-straight Olympic semifinal, kept the margin within single digits before the third-quarter flurry of 3-point shooting, including four by Durant.
“In a matter of two or three minutes at the end of the third quarter, they hit a string of successful 3-pointers,” said Argentina guard Pablo Prigioni. “In two minutes they shoot from anywhere and they score, and they get a lead that is very difficult to overcome.”
The semifinal contests came on the same day that a four- team NBA trade was announce in which Dwight Howard moved from Orlando to the Los Angeles Lakers. As part of the deal, U.S. team member Andre Iguodala went from the Philadelphia 76ers to the Denver Nuggets.
Iguodala, 28, had a dramatic dunk in the game’s final minute that brought the crowd to its feet. He said the trade didn’t affect his game.
“It’s my responsibility to my teammates to be ready to play,” Iguodala said in an interview. “When I go out there on the court, they rely on me to bring what I bring to the table and I’ve got to be ready for it.”
The U.S. has won 13 gold medals in the 16 Olympic tournaments it has entered. The Americans have won their London 2012 games by an average margin of 36 points.
The Spaniards have won five of the seven games they’ve played in the tournament, losing only to Brazil and when they first took on Russia. The team has struggled with injuries to key players.
“We haven’t been 100 percent ever in this championship, but competitively we will be there,” coach Sergio Scariolo said. “Together we will be there, team spirit we will be there and with these weapons we will try to compete against any opponent.”
The defending champions last lost at the games in the 2004 semifinals, when Argentina won 89-81 before going on to claim gold.
The U.S. won 118-107 four years ago in a game that Gasol said was very competitive and very emotional. He said the 2012 final will present a similar challenge.
“We understand that the U.S. team is an extremely powerful, talented team, so they’re very hard to beat,” he said. “We understand it’s going to be a difficult game. It’s a huge opportunity and very few people get a chance to compete in an Olympic final.”
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