USA Men Advance to Olympic Semifinals With 116-85 Drubbing Of Australia
Riding a 19-0 run that started late in the second quarter and stretched until almost four minutes into the third period, the 2008 U.S. Men's Olympic Team (6-0) demolished Australia (3-3) in the second and third quarters on its way to a 116-85 win and a 2008 Olympic semifinal berth Wednesday night at Wukesong Arena in Beijing, China. The victory improved the USA record to 6-0 and advanced the squad into the semifinals.
Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers) turned in a 25-point performance as all 12 U.S. players scored in the contest, including five in double figures.
The USA will face reigning Olympic champion Argentina (5-1) in the semifinals at 10:15 p.m. (10:15 a.m. EDT) on Friday, setting up a rematch of the 2004 Olympic semifinals when Argentina beat the USA 89-81. Argentina advanced to play the USA after surviving Greece 80-78 in today's late game.
'We want to play the best. We want to play the defending champs,' said Bryant. 'It's all about challenges, and obviously, we welcome all comers. Argentina is the defending champs. You want to be able to play the guys who won it the last time.'
In the 8:00 p.m. semifinal game, Spain (5-1), which earlier today topped Croatia 72-59, will play Lithuania (5-1), which downed China 94-68. The Olympic men's gold and bronze medal games will be held Aug. 24 at 2:30 p.m. and 12:00 p.m., respectively.
LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers) added 16 points, nine rebounds and four steals in the USA's win; Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets) tallied 15 points; and Chris Bosh (Toronto Raptors) and Deron Williams (Utah Jazz) each contributed 10 points.
'We had to play really well in order to win,' said USA and Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski. 'They caused us a lot of problems, and I'm glad my Duke team doesn't play St. Mary's next year. (Patrick Mills) is a great guard. He'll be an NBA guard, and I'm very, very impressed. We're ecstatic because we know we beat an outstanding team, who I think was playing their best basketball right now. So, it was a heck of a game for us.'
While the USA shot an impressive 56.6 percent from the field (43-76 FGs), Bryant was 4-of-7 from 3-point to help the USA tie the U.S. Olympic record for 3-point field goals made with 12 for a second time in this tournament and set a new mark for 3-pointers attempted with 29.
'I think myself and Melo and the rest of our shooters, Michael Redd, we're starting to get a good rhythm for our shots,' Bryant said. 'And, it couldn't come at a better time. Being that it's do-or-die, it's go time. This is what we came here for, and we're all ready to go. Money's on the line.'
The USA raced to a nine-point lead to start the game behind points from four U.S. scorers, and a James 3-pointer with 6:41 on the clock brought the tally to 12-3 in the USA's favor. Australia countered eight more U.S. points with three 3-pointers in the next three minutes, with the last one cutting the U.S. advantage to 20-17 with 3:20 remaining in the stanza. The teams traded scores to close the quarter, and the USA was ahead by one point, 25-24, as the period ended.
The USA put together its first consecutive points of the second period with a Bosh free throw at 8:25 and a James fast break bucket at 7:57 that brought the score was 33-28. Following two points from Australia, the USA again compiled four consecutive points, and Australia called its first timeout after a Wade fast break increased the U.S. lead to 37-30 at 6:43. The next four minutes were back and forth as both teams tallied 13 points, and the scoreboard read 50-43 when Australia's Brad Newley sank a three with 1:48 remaining before halftime.
That was as close as Australia would get for the remainder of the game. The score reached 55-43 after Bryant scored off an offensive rebound and Williams pulled up in transition with a 3-pointer to just beat the halftime buzzer.
'When I caught it, it was about three seconds,' Williams recalled. 'I could make it to the basket, but he (the Australian defender) kept backing up. That was my first thought. If he came up and challenged me, he was a big man, then I was going to try and get to the basket. But he kept backing up and I just rose up for the three.'
The momentum, and the run, carried through the break for the USA. The red, white and blue sank three 3-pointers in the first 3:23 of the third period, including two from Bryant, as it raced to 14 unanswered points. The 19-0 run, which included 10 points from Bryant, was interrupted by a 3-pointer from Australia's Patrick Mills with 6:01 on the clock, but the Aussie response was too little too late.
'(Kobe) had a great performance, and he came up when we needed it the most, right at the start of the second half,' Krzyzewski said. 'It was such a possession by possession game, we were lucky that Deron hit that shot right at the end of the first half.'
Having recorded just two assists in the first half, the USA went on to record nine assists on 12 made field goals in the third quarter to outscore Australia 34-19 in the period and stretch its lead to 28 points, 89-61, headed into the final 10 minutes.
With the game's outcome decided Australia never gave up, but the USA offense continued to overpower its opponent. With the help of six more points from Bryant and five from Williams and Michael Redd (Milwaukee Bucks) the USA tallied 27 points to Australia's 24 to bring the game to its final score of 116-85.
While the USA dominated the boards, outrebounding Australia 57-28, including 19 on the offensive glass, the Americans struggled from the free throw line, shooting just 58.1 percent (18-31 FTs) from the charity stripe.
The USA has played Argentina four times in Olympic action, recording wins on three occasions and a loss in the 2004 Olympic semifinals. The USA topped Argentina 96-68 in 2000, 85-76 in 1952 and 59-57 in 1948. Handing Argentina a 96-81 setback in the bronze medal game of the 2006 FIBA World Championship, and additionally, the USA beat a less-than-full strength Argentina squad twice in the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship, 91-76 in second round action and 118-81 in the gold medal game. The 2007 Argentina team, while featuring Luis Scola and Carlos Delfino, was without several starters including Manu Ginobili, who currently leads his squad with 20.3 ppg., and Andres Nocioni, who is the team's third-leading scorer with 12.8 ppg. and the leading rebounder at 6.8 rpg.
'Well we haven't accomplished anything yet,' said Jason Kidd (Dallas Mavericks). 'We've taken one baby step, and now our next step is going to be tough. When we play Argentina, we will have our hands full. We'll have to make sure that our defense is tight and remember that we are here for one thing and that is to win a gold medal.'
Serving as 2008 USA Basketball Men's Senior National Team assistant coaches are Syracuse University and Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, New York Knicks head mentor Mike D'Antoni and Portland Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan.