So now the fun really begins. Team USA cruised through pool play without a loss, despite a couple of speed bumps against Lithuania and Argentina. The heavy gold medal favorites should have little trouble with Australia today. Indeed, the only real drama will probably be how many shots Patty Mills gets up. Over/under — 25. And, as always, box score is .
6:11, USA leads 12-10. A small victory for the Boomers — they won the tip! Pretty solid start so far for Australia, which trails by only two as Matt Nielsen heads to the foul line. Kevin Durant has a couple of 3s so far, but so does Mills — on two attempts, no less, and both over Kobe Bryant.
4:08, USA leads 19-12. Questionable strategy from Australia’s Brett Brown, whose team is actually trying to run with the U.S. Not sure if that’s going to pan out over 40 minutes. Fortunately for the Boomers, however, the U.S. is only 2 for 5 from 3-point range so far. LeBron James is running the show with three assists as the Americans lead by seven following Carmelo Anthony’s three-point play.
2:36, USA leads 22-16. James just distributed a gorgeous no-look bounce pass inside to Russell Westbrook. That’s assist No. 4 to go with five rebounds.
0:00, USA leads 28-21. Lots of trouble early for the Boomers, who are shooting poorly (33 percent from the floor, 33 percent from 3, 42 percent from the line) and have committed 10 fouls. Still, they’re only down seven after Mills slithered to the rim for his ninth and 10th points to cut the deficit to seven.
8:55, USA leads 31-22. Going to be a LONG game. Australia has already committed 13 fouls, including three here in the early moments of the second quarter. USA not far behind with nine.
4:37, USA leads 44-36. The USA is having a tough time separating from the scrappy Boomers. Every time it looks like the Americans are ready to go on a big run, Australia pulls a couple of plays out of their hat. Or, it just funnels the ball to Kobe, who is 0 for 3 with two turnovers.
2:14, USA leads 54-38. Not sure if this is a word, but you’ll get the picture when I say Team USA is severely out-athleting Australia. Offensive rebounds on the last three possessions fuel a quick 7-0 run that pushes the Americans out to their biggest lead. Deron Williams, of all players, is the leading scorer with 13.
0:50, USA leads 56-40. Great sequence for LeBron, who contests Mills’ fastbreak layup, then races downcourt to facilitate a wide-open layup for Kevin Love. How’s this for a juicy state line: 7 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists. LeBron at his all-around best.
Halftime, USA leads 56-42. Australia actually did a pretty good job hanging in despite severe foul problems and horrendous shooting. Still, there’s no doubt which team is in firm control at the moment. Team USA has proven adept at coming out of halftime strong in these Olympics, so we’ll see if it can continue the trend.
A minor upset: Mills has taken only nine shots! Pick it up, Patty…
9:50, USA leads 56-47. Now, that’s more like it. Mills with the quick 3, steal and layup in the first 10 seconds.
8:20, USA leads 56-53. Two 3s for Ingles, and Australia is on an 11-0 run. So much for that strong start Team USA was hoping for.
5:02, USA leads 67-58. Vintage Bryant. Drills a spot-up 3, forces the steal, then goes out of his way to dribble to the 3-point line after gathering the loose ball. Of course he made it. Never mind that he’d played horrendously up to that sequence. You could have bet your house that shot was going up.
0:00, USA leads 84-70. An active, energetic third quarter for the Australians. But for all their good work, they can’t cut even a single point off the USA’s lead. At least they didn’t fall behind any further — small victories and all of that. Conversely, the Americans were frighteningly sloppy, especially on the defensive end. It’s quarters like this that gives other teams hope that the juggernaut of international basketball can be beaten.
7:34, USA leads 90-75. LeBron whips a beautiful cross-court pass out of a double team to Williams for the 3. He’s up to 11 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists. Has missed out on at least three or four assists thanks to errant shooting from his teammates.
6:38, USA leads 92-78. Wild loose ball at halfcourt ping pongs around until it finally gets to Mills, who drills the Bruce Bowen Memorial Corner 3. He’s up to 22, the second straight Olympics he’s scored at least 20 against Team USA.
6:16, USA leads 93-78. Kevin Love battles through the entire population of Australia to pull down an offensive rebound and draw the foul. Man’s play right there. Even his facial hair is manly.
4:53, USA leads 107-80. Kobe with one of his patented hot streaks, hitting three straight 3s to give USA its largest lead. Then LeBron finds Love behind the back for the fastbreak layup and his 10th assist of the game and the triple double. That’s the beauty of Team USA — can play up and down for most of the game, and just like that they’re up by almost 30. EDIT — my bad, LeBron cracked double-digit assists on one of Kobe’s 3; in fact, he assisted on all of them, according to the play by play. Still, the pass to Love was pretty sweet.
2:24, USA leads 109-84. Mills up to 24 now after his layup. Great, gutty effort from the Spurs’ backup PG against overwhelming odds.
Game, USA wins 119-86. An unfair final score for Australia, which competed hard throughout. But such is the challenge presented by Team USA, which can turn tight games into routs in the span of mere minutes. That’s what happened today, when it pummeled the Boomers 35-16 in the final quarter behind an onslaught of 3s from Kobe Bryant.
Bryant, who had been MIA in the Olympics up to that point, bounced back from a miserable first half to score all 20 of his points after halftime. But James was the dominant player, turning in a master class of all-around basketball with 11 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists. As amazing as his line is, it was even more impressive watching it unfold live. EDIT — historic as well; LeBron is the first American to record a triple-double in international play.
And now we have a fascinating match-up with veteran Argentina on Friday. Overwhelming firepower against smarts and savvy. If it’s anything like past meetings in the Olympics, we’re in for a real treat.