Reigning Olympic and World Champions United States advanced to the Semi-Finals of the Olympic Basketball Tournament for Mena after beating Australia 119-86.
The USA led 56-42 at the half and, shortly after the Boomers used an 11-0 run at the start of the third quarter to cut the deficit to 56-53, the Americans scored nine unanswered points of their own for a 72-58 advantage.
Having re-established a double-digit lead, they held on to it and stretched it the rest of the way to set up a Semi-Final showdown with Argentina. The two teams met at this stage of the competition four years ago in Beijing.
Australia matched their opponents stroke for stroke to start, as they trailed 14-12 midway through the first period.
Mike Kzyzewski‘s men pulled away to take a 28-21 lead into the second quarter.
Deron Williams stretched that advantage to 39-27 when he connected from beyond the arc. Australia then got within 44-36 through Joe Ingles, but the USA accounted for 12 of the last 16 first-half points.
Patrick Mills scored the first five points of the third quarter and Ingles then knocked down back-to-back three-pointers to get within 56-53 with 8:27 to go in the period.
However, the USA re-established a double-digit lead fairly quickly thanks to Kobe Bryant who hit consecutive treys of his own for 70-58.
Carmelo Anthony provided a spark off the bench late in the period, with five quick points that left the Australians trailing 84-70 heading into the fourth quarter.
Bryant then resumed his shooting exhibition in the fourth quarter, hitting four three-pointers in 66 seconds for a commanding 105-80 lead with under five minutes left to play.
James Harden put the style touches on the game with some thundering dunks at the end.
Bryant finished with a team-high 20 points – on six three-pointers and two free-throws – while LeBron James quietly went about putting together a triple-double of 11 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists.
Mills led all scorers with 26 points and Ingles added 19.
Afterwards, Krzyzewski talked about the keys to the game.
“We played well in first half except for some times when we didn’t get back and Australia got 10 or 12 transition points from that,” he said.
“We got off to a bad start in the third quarter but my guys stuck with it. Offensive rebounding was a big factor, Kevin Love had eight of them.”
Bryant raved about a couple of Australian players.
“They played very well. We knew they were going to be very tough and physical,” he said. “Mills is getting better and better and (David) Andersen is a hell of a player.”
Asked about his three-point exhibition, Bryant simply said: “We get a lot of easy shots. I was in a good rhythm, I had some daylight to shoot them and made them.”
He also commended James for his rare feat.
Australia captain Matt Nielsen pointed to some missed opportunities by the Boomers as an issue.
“We prepared well, we had a good game plan to limit our turnovers because they score a ridiculous amount of points off of those,” he said.
“But we missed some lay-ups and free-throws. Things didn’t go our way in some moments.”