Harry E. Walker MCT LeBron James poses after a monster dunk Friday as the United States beats Argentina in an Olympic basketball semi in London's North Greenwich Arena.

U.S. powers into hoops final

Published: Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 4C
Last Modified: Monday, Aug. 20, 2012 - 8:28 am

LONDON – The U.S. men's basketball team had just crushed Argentina 109-83 in the Olympic semifinal Friday night with its high-octane offense, smothering defense and athleticism.

The NBA superstars made it look so easy, with scoring sprees and acrobatic dunks, that coach Mike Krzyzewski was asked in a postgame news conference whether he actually does any coaching.

"Absolutely none," he quipped. "I'm out every night with my family, drunk as a skunk. … We just roll out the damn ball."

Kidding aside, the U.S. players looked invincible and on a mission. Although there were more questions about the NBA mega-trade involving Dwight Howard than the game, and Kobe Bryant made tabloid headlines after being seen with Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice, everyone seemed completely focused on the quest for gold.

Bryant, pumped by the news that Howard is now his Los Angeles Lakers teammate, got things going with 11 first-quarter points. Kevin Durant went on a third-quarter scoring spurt with four three-pointers, and then Carmelo Anthony took over, hitting four threes in the fourth quarter.

But if there was one play that best displayed U.S. dominance over Argentina, it was LeBron James' thunderous dunk with 3:46 to go in the third quarter. The teams were meeting for the third time in 17 days, and the aging but spirited Argentines were still hanging around. James drove into the lane and whizzed past and over Carlos Delfino, slamming the ball in with one hand.

The dunk spoke volumes. James and Anthony were on the 2004 team that lost to Argentina in the Athens Olympics semifinal. They weren't going to let it happen again.

The richest and most famous team at these Olympics will play for the gold medal Sunday against Spain, which rallied in the second half of the earlier semifinal to beat Russia 65-59. Spain lost to Team USA in the final four years ago at the Beijing Olympics.

"I try to make plays to inspire our team both offensively and defensively, and I hope that was a play that started the rally," James said after his dunk.

Coming off a triple double in the quarterfinal, James had 18 points, seven rebounds and seven assists against Argentina. He has scored 254 points for the United States in the Olympics. Only Michael Jordan (256) and David Robinson (280) scored more.

"LeBron is just doing everything," Krzyzewski said. "The dirty work, the clean work, the leadership work … and we all followed him."

Durant led U.S. scoring Friday with 19 points. Anthony had 18; Bryant finished with 13.

"They are better than us, and everyone knows that," said Argentine forward Andres Nocioni.

"When they start hitting those three-pointers and grabbing every rebound, it becomes impossible," said Manu Ginobili, who led Argentina with 18 points.

He and his teammates will meet Russia in the bronze-medal game.

As for Spain's chances against the United States on Sunday, Ginobili said: "They have to play an almost perfect game."

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