Men's basketball: USA 109, Argentina 83: Big second half puts US in final

Argentina within 4 in third quarter, 'then we blinked'
2012-08-11T00:00:00Z 2012-08-11T19:59:27Z Men's basketball: USA 109, Argentina 83: Big second half puts US in finalThe Associated Press The Associated Press
August 11, 2012 12:00 am  • 

LONDON - LeBron James turned away from his teammates gathered in the center circle and waved to the fans as if to say: "See you Sunday."

Right where the U.S. men's Olympic basketball team always expected to be, in the gold medal game, against the opponent it figured to see again.

"Anything less than this would have been unsatisfying for us," Carmelo Anthony said. "We believe that we could get here, and we're here now. We got one game left."

Kevin Durant scored 19 points, James and Anthony added 18 apiece, and Team USA turned on its slamming-and-shooting spectacle in the second half to overwhelm Argentina for the second time in three games, 109-83 in the semifinals Friday night.

The U.S. will play Spain on Sunday, a rematch of the Americans' victory four years ago for the gold medal in Beijing.

"I think it's only right," James said. "Everyone said that this is the game they wanted to see. We look forward to it. We're happy as a team we're able to be back in this position. We've got to defend, we've got to rebound, we've got to share the ball."

The Americans have said they believe this team is better than the '08 squad, and they are certainly more potent - with a chance to end up outscoring the original Dream Team in 1992.

"You have three scorers on this team who get blistering hot if they make two shots in a row," Kobe Bryant said. "I've never seen anything like it."

In the third straight Olympic semifinal between the United States and Argentina, the Americans kept pulling ahead only to see the Argentines climb back in - until James and Durant finally put them away for good.

Manu Ginobili scored 18 points for Argentina, which plays Russia for the bronze medal Sunday.

Argentina hung around until early in the second half, just as it did Monday in the final game of pool play.

And just like that night, the Americans hit them with a wave of dunks and three-pointers in the third quarter that turned it into a romp.

Although not quite as explosive as their 42-17 period in Monday's 126-97 win, this one had just as many highlights.

Ahead by only four after Ginobili opened the third quarter with a three-pointer, the Americans pulled away with James' strength and Durant's shot.

Durant made two three-pointers in an 8-0 run that pushed the lead to 13, and when Argentina got back within eight, the NBA's MVP and runner-up teamed up to blow it open.

James had a basket and drove for a powerful dunk while being fouled. Durant followed with consecutive three-pointers, James tipped in a miss, and suddenly the lead was 72-53 with 1:30 left in the period.

"We had a great run in the first half," Ginobili said. "We started the third very well. And then we blinked."

It became a runaway in the fourth when Anthony hit three three-pointers in 42 seconds, the American bench spilling onto the floor as he strutted back to midcourt after the last one made it 93-64.

Otherwise, there was little celebrating for the Americans during or after the game.

The party they want can't come until Sunday afternoon.

"It's been a fun ride, but we want to compete on Sunday," forward Kevin Love said.

Team USA beat Spain 118-107 in the Beijing final, pulling away after leading by just four with about 2 1/2 minutes left. The Spanish are ranked second in the world behind the Americans and have much more size with brothers Pau and Marc Gasol.

"We'll have a difficult challenge with Spain because they're really big. But they'll have a challenge with us, too," U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

Bryant finished with 13 points.

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