We got our swagger back: US earn Spain semi-final as NBA stars shine in Argentina rout at Olympic Games
The defending champions recorded a 105-78 win in the men’s basketball competition quarter-final in Rio de Janeiro
NBA star Kevin Durant scored 27 points and defending champion the United States advanced to the Olympic Games semi-finals by beating Argentina 105-78 on Wednesday to book a date with revenge-hungry Spain.
The Americans stretched their Olympic win streak to 23 games and their 10-year overall win streak to 74 since losing to Greece in the 2006 World Championship semi-finals in Japan.
After their slimmest wins in the Olympic streak – three-point group stage triumphs over France and Serbia – their NBA stars started slow but showed top form against a veteran foe.
“I think we got our swagger back,” US guard Paul George said. “We were confident shooting, we were aggressive, we kept our poise.”
European champion Spain routed France 92-67 to reach a Friday semi-final with a USA side that beat them 107-100 in the 2012 Olympic final and 118-107 for 2008 gold.
“We face them everyday in the NBA,” Spain guard Ricky Rubio said. “We know how tough it’s going to be.”
Australia beat Lithuania 90-64 and will face either Serbia or Croatia in the other semi-final.
Patty Mills scored 24 points, Aron Baynes had 16 and Matthew Dellavedova added 15 as the trio – who have all won the NBA – sparked an Australia side seeking their first Olympic medal.
“We have set the goal of winning the gold medal. Today was just another step in the journey,” Dellavedova said.
WATCH: golden moments on Day 12 at the Rio Olympics
“We’re going to have to work hard for it but that’s something we’re willing to do.”
Forward Nikola Mirotic scored 23 points to ignite Spain, which must oust the US for another chance at gold.
“We know it’s going to be a tough match-up,” Spain guard Jose Calderon said.
Argentina jumped ahead 19-9 after six minutes, relying on the game’s shortest man, 5ft 11in guard Facundo Campazzo, for eight points early.
Durant saved a poor US start while his teammates shot 3-of-12 from the floor. The Americans settled for outside jumpers, passed rarely and were outplayed before a timeout, but then everything changed.
— U.S. Olympic Team (@TeamUSA) August 18, 2016
The US outscored Argentina 27-2 over the next six minutes to seize command at 36-21, looking like the dominant force expected since the roster was named.
DeMarcus Cousins and Durant each scored nine points in the key span.
“We started a little sluggish, recognised the mistake and came out with more energy,” Cousins said.
The US led 56-40 at half-time and weren’t threatened in the second half, even though screaming Argentine and cheering US fans created an electric atmosphere.
“It was incredible,” Cousins said. “I’ve never been in a crowd like this before. At one point the building was shaking. That was unbelievable.”
George had 17 points and Cousins 15, while Luis Scola led Argentina with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Australia’s best Olympic finish is fourth after losing the bronze medal games to the US in 1988 and Lithuania in 1996 and 2000.
“We haven’t gotten the recognition on the world stage because we haven’t won anything. These guys are determined to change that,” Australia coach Andrej Lemanis said.
Led by eight from Mills, Australia outscored Lithuania 20-3 in a key span for a 36-20 second quarter lead and stayed securely ahead to the finish.
“We came out and threw the first punch,” Mills said. “After that it was a matter of staying consistent and keeping them down.”
Lithuania had played for bronze in five of the last six Olympics, winning three times.
“We weren’t ready mentally,” Lithuania guard Mantas Kalnietis said.
Tony Parker scored 14 points in his final game for France but a 16-6 run put Spain ahead 33-22, and they never looked back.
“We can only be mad at ourselves,” French star Boris Diaw said.