The U.S. beat Argentina 126-97 to advance to the elimination stage of the Olympic men’s basketball competition with a 5-0 record.
Kevin Durant of the National Basketball Association’s Oklahoma City Thunder led the U.S. with 28 points and hit 8-of-10 three-point shots, while LeBron James of the Miami Heat added 18 points.
The defending Olympic champions held a 60-59 halftime lead before outscoring Argentina 42-17 in the third quarter to pull away for the victory in London. The U.S. and Argentina are among eight teams to reach the tournament’s knockout stage.
“In the first half they ran their offense to a tee,” U.S. guard Chris Paul, who had 17 points and seven assists, told reporters. “We came out and played a much better third quarter and second half. They made us compete.”
The Americans, who two days ago trailed in the fourth quarter before beating Lithuania 99-94, won their five group-stage games by an average of 38.2 points, outscoring their opponents by 191 points.
Argentina, which was led by 16 points from Manu Ginobili of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, had a 3-2 record in group play.
The U.S. plays Australia (3-2) in tomorrow’s quarterfinals, while Argentina, which took the bronze medal at the Beijing Games four years ago, faces archrival Brazil (4-1).
The U.S. and Argentina would meet again in the semifinals if they both win.
Spain (3-2), which lost to the U.S. in the 2008 gold medal game, plays France (4-1) in its quarterfinal game tomorrow, while Russia (4-1) meets Lithuania (2-3) for a semifinal spot.
The U.S. team has won 13 gold medals in the 16 Olympic tournaments they’ve entered. They last lost an Olympic game in 2004, when Argentina beat them 89-81 to win the gold medal.