London, England – Kevin Durant scored 28 points and LeBron James added 18, as the U.S. men's basketball team finished an undefeated round-robin schedule with a 126-97 rout of Argentina.
The Americans were coming off a narrow 99-94 win over Lithuania on Saturday and had trouble in the first half Monday, nursing a 60-59 lead at halftime. Team USA then turned it up a notch and outscored Argentina 42-17 in the third quarter to make it a blowout, with Durant matching the Argentines' third- quarter total by himself.
Chris Paul contributed 17 points with seven assists for the United States, which finished 5-0 to win Group A and will face Australia -- fourth in Group B -- in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. The Americans were the only team to go undefeated in the preliminary round.
"They (Argentina) are a championship level team and for us to have a game like this going into the medal round is good," said Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski. "I thought it was very hard fought game, and we played and outstanding second half."
Manu Ginobili scored 16 points for Argentina, which went 3-2 and finished third in Group A. The Argentines will square off against Brazil in the quarters on Wednesday.
The other quarterfinal matchups will pit Group B champ Russia against Lithuania, and France -- second in Group A -- against Spain.
After Saturday's test, the U.S. was hoping to re-establish its superiority and had trouble doing so over the first 20 minutes against an Argentine team that has plenty of NBA talent.
In addition to Ginobili, the Argentines also feature Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni and Carlos Delfino. Scola and Nocioni sat for most of the first half, but the South American nation still gave the U.S. a battle ... until the third quarter started.
James scored the first seven U.S. points and Durant drilled a three-pointer to cap a 10-3 burst that quickly made it 70-62. A Durant dunk off a James feed gave the Americans a double-digit advantage of 77-66 and the margin continued to grow.
Durant hit consecutive threes midway through the third to extend the cushion to 85-68 and the Argentines got only as close as 11 with the next six points. Two more Durant shots from long range and another by Carmelo Anthony helped the U.S. close the period with a 17-2 run to make it 102-76 heading to the fourth.
"It wasn't like we had a different focus," James said about the third quarter. "We knew defensively in the first half we didn't play to our capabilities. We allowed them to get a lot of open shots, a lot of open looks, a lot of layups and that's not how we play the game of basketball defensively. We came out with a sense of urgency in the third quarter to step it up defensively, play more solid and not gamble as much, and then execute a little bit more on the offensive end."
Anthony's three came just before the end of the period and he appeared to take a punch below the belt from Argentina's Facundo Campazzo. Anthony went down and the U.S. bench, led by Krzyzewski, quickly protested.
There was no call, but things got a little testy early in the fourth, especially after Russell Westbrook was called for a technical foul for taunting following a thunderous dunk.
The Americans didn't let up in the fourth and cruised to the victory, sealing it with a final three from James Harden at the buzzer. The U.S. finished a scintillating 20-of-39 from three-point range, led by Durant's 8-of-10 performance.
"It was one of those times," said Durant. "I've probably had that feeling three or four times before that every time I catch it, I feel like it's going to go in. But it wasn't just me. My teammates did a good job of giving me confidence first off. Also, just finding me. They're passing up shots to give me the ball, and that's a great feeling. I just try to do my part and make the shot."
Argentina, which played without point guard Pablo Prigioni because of kidney stones, could face the United States again in the semifinals if both teams win on Wednesday.