x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Olympics: USA cruise into basketball semi-finals with 119-86 win over Australia

A second half surge from Kobe Bryant proved too much for Australia as the 'Dream Team' eased their way into medal contention.

USA guard Kobe Bryant is challenged by Australian forward Brad Newley
USA guard Kobe Bryant is challenged by Australian forward Brad Newley

Kobe Bryant exploded into life in the second half as the United States eased into the semi-finals of the London Olympics.

Australia fought hard to keep the Americans in check, but had no answer once Bryant found his stroke.

The Los Angeles Lakers man had done little to live up to his superstar status in London before tonight and reached half-time in this game 0-for-four from the field and with as many fouls committed - 14 - as field goals made in the entire tournament.

But that changed in a big way in the second half as he made six-of-nine three-point attempts to fire a United States surge that killed off the Boomers.

"When you're playing on this team you really get easy shots," said Bryant, who finished with 20 points.

"You're playing with so many great players, I just found myself in a really good rhythm, found some daylight so I shot the ball.

"I've just been searching for something to get me going, for something to activate the 'Black Mamba' as coach calls it.

"I needed something to keep me on edge, so I can then ride that edge for the rest of the game."

Teammate Carmelo Anthony was claiming to be the one to have fired up Bryant, but he laughed that off.

"He was just saying to me, 'Let me see you, come out', but I was already revved up," Bryant said.

Bryant was not the only one firing.

LeBron James has already done plenty of impressive things in these Olympics, but the Miami Heat man took it to a new level here with what USA Basketball officials believed to be the first triple-double in team history, collecting 11 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists.

"LeBron was magnificent tonight, but he's been magnificent the whole time," United States coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

"He's so unselfish. His rebounding and his passing tonight were incredible. He's all about winning, he's the best basketball player right now and he showed that tonight."

Australia played the Americans hard in the first half but were let down by the simple things.

They reached the interval shooting just nine of 17 from the free-throw line.

They were also missing some straightforward lay-ups, with Patty Mills, Aron Baynes and Aleks Maric all guilty.

That allowed an American team hardly firing on all cylinders themselves early on to pull away gradually.

Deron Williams hit a pair of free throws late in the first quarter to make it 26-16.

Kevin Love made it 56-40 late in the first half, but Australia grabbed the last two points through Mills' free throws and then exploded out of the gates after the break.

Mills and Joe Ingles combined on an 11-0 run, with Ingles hitting back-to-back three-pointers to make it 56-53.

The game stayed close until Bryant came up with back-to-back three-pointers that had his teammates off their seats on the bench as the lead moved to 70-58.

A huge slam from Kevin Durant made it 80-66 as the Americans stepped it up late in the third quarter.

Bryant continued to pour in the points, and then Durant, James and James Harden brought out the party tricks with a series of late dunks.

"We were fully aware of what we were getting into tonight," Australia coach Brett Brown said. "When you come into a gym with that much talent, the coaching staff that they've assembled, and the consistency they've built over the years it's dangerous.

"I don't believe the final margin is indicative of the game, and I'm very proud of the guys. They've shown a level of competitiveness and I'm proud to coach them."

Williams had 18 points and Anthony 17 for the United States, with Durant adding 14 and Love collecting 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Mills led Australia with 26 and Ingles had 19.


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