LONDON – The United States had stumbled, struggled, and appeared destined to go the distance with one more preliminary-round opponent on Monday night until Kevin Durant changed everything. The ball kept finding him in the third quarter, and he kept rising and rising with that sweet stroke, delivering 28 points for the Americans in a 126-97 victory over Argentina.
After a physical and sometimes confrontational game against Argentina, Team USA moves to the quarterfinal round on Wednesday night, where it will meet Australia. The U.S. finished pool play unbeaten.
After struggling to beat Lithuania on Saturday – holding on for a 99-94 victory – the Americans turned a 60-59 halftime lead over Argentina into a blowout in the third quarter.
LeBron James scored 18 points for Team USA and Chris Paul had 17.
Team USA and Argentina could meet again in the semifinal round. Argentina plays Brazil in the quarterfinals.
Manu Ginobili, 35, one of the greatest international players of all time, was brilliant for Argentina as they hung tough for a half. With Kobe Bryant covering him, Ginobili dribbled away from his shooting hand to his right, and made an off-balance 3-pointer late in the second quarter. When James tried to stop Ginobili in transition near the halftime buzzer, he tumbled into the San Antonio Spurs guard on the open floor and sent him to the free-throw line for his 15th and 16th points of the half.
Argentina rested two key starters – Luis Scola and Andres Nocioni – for most of the first half. Argentina played without point guard Pablo Prigioni, who is recovering from a kidney stone.
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