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Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Instant Analysis: USA 119, Australia 86

By Marc Stein

Some at-the-buzzer instant analysis from Team USA's 119-86 victory over Australia in Wednesday night's Olympic quarterfinals:

How it happened: When LeBron James rebounded an errant Kobe Bryant 3-pointer in the third quarter, levitated over everyone else in the vicinity and banked in a one-handed pumping layup at his leisure, we were provided a pretty handy snapshot of this quarterfinal matchup.

Because James' presence hung over this game.

It took until the fourth quarter for the United States to get significant separation from the typically plucky Aussies, thanks to Kobe's spree of four 3s in 60-odd seconds, but James also made sure Team USA was never really threatened. The NBA's reigning MVP racked up 11 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists in 30 minutes to register a comfortable triple-double that steered the Americans into Friday night's semifinals against Argentina.

Team USA again appeared to fall well short of its defensive potential by sloppily surrendering the first 11 points of the second half to cut a 14-point lead down to three in a matter of seconds. The Yanks also couldn't prevent San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills, who emerged from group play as the tournament's co-leading scorer with Spain's Pau Gasol at 20.6 points per game, from dropping another 26.

Yet the Americans never were in any lasting danger against a group of Aussies who couldn't afford to miss eight of 21 free throws and the handful of inside chances they did have. Not when they didn't have Andrew Bogut in the lineup to punish the Americans more for their intermittment focus.

"If Bogut's playing, it's different," Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "It's just different."

What it means: Team USA will play Argentina on Friday night for the third time in a span of 17 days, with the winner advancing to the gold-medal game against the winner of Russia-Spain.

Team USA now has won 48 consecutive games in international play, dating back to a loss to Greece in the semifinals of the 2006 Worlds in Japan.

The last team to beat the Americans on the Olympic stage? Argentina in the 2004 semifinals.

Team USA's Olympic win streak is up to 15 now.

Player of the game: In case we weren't clear before ...

Eleven points. Fourteen rebounds. Twelve assists.

Need we say more?

Kobe had all 20 of his points in the second half -- 18 coming on his six 3s after interimssion -- and Kevin Love finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds, eight of those boards coming on the offensive end. Deron Williams and Carmelo Anthony also quietly totaled 18 and 17 points, respectively.

Those performances, though, were complements to what James did as a tone-setter.

Play of the game: Pick your favorite no-look pass from James.

The ball he bounced through Aron Baynes' legs in the key to set up an early three-point play for Melo that LeBron celebrated as vigorously as any play he's made in these Olympics?

Another no-looker amid a lot of traffic in the paint to free up Russell Westbrook for a late layup in the first?

Or the much longer no-looker he zipped inside to make an easy bucket for Love?

On this night, it was hard to take your eyes off James, who almost had his triple-double (seven points, 10 boards and six assists) by halftime.

By the numbers: With 19 more 3-pointers in its sixth straight victory at London 2012, Team USA has 96 3s as a group for the tournament.

The Americans went into Wednesday night's play with 77, matching the 77 they drained in eight games at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

James, meanwhile, needed 56 points in Team USA's final games to overtake David Robinson as the program's leading all-time scorer in Olympic play. He's now 45 points away entering Friday's semifinals against Argentina.