With a meeting against Argentina on the line, USA’s star forward LeBron James put on an all-around basketball clinic in the first half as he neared a triple-double after just 20 minutes and the United States leading by 14 over Australia, 56-42.
It was their oldest player, however, that would provide the final dagger against the Boomers.
After the Australian team, behind Spurs guard Patty Mills (26 points) and FC Barcelona’s Joe Ingles (19 points), cut the USA’s lead to just six in the third quarter with an 11-0 run, 16-year pro Kobe Bryant erupted for 20 points on six three-pointers. His first three made attempts helped push the American lead to 70-58, and his last three straight essentially ended the game. Averaging just 9.4 points in the London Olympics, seeing Bryant finally go off was a dream for the US and a nightmare for the rest of the international field.
The United States squad would go on to win big, 119-86 – their second straight Olympics quarterfinal victory over the Australians.
James finished with the first triple-double (11 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists) in USA men’s basketball history, an incredible accomplishment considering the numerous Hall of Fame players that have donned the red, white and blue jerseys. Even more impressive was the fact that James didn’t commit a single turnover in 30 minutes.
Forward Kevin Love had the team’s other double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, continually outmuscling the smaller Aussie defenders for rebounds. Kevin Durant was the only other American with more than four rebounds, corralling five defensive boards.
Next up for the United States is Argentina, who defeated Brazil in a nailbiter, 82-77. That semifinal game will be at noon on Friday, August 10.