SAITAMA, Japan – Dwyane Wade scored 18 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter, helping the United States pull away for a 96-81 victory over Argentina on Saturday in basketball world championships bronze medal game.
LeBron James added 20 points for the Americans, which could only match the bronze it won two years ago in Athens. This victory gave the Americans some measure of revenge from that disappointment, coming against the team that had beaten them in the semifinals two years ago.
In a spectacular performance similar to those he delivered while winning MVP honors at the NBA finals, Wade was 10-of-14 from the field and made all three 3-point attempts — he was 2-of-15 behind the arc coming into game. He fell three points shy of the American record Carmelo Anthony set earlier in the tournament.
Anthony capped a strong tournament with 15 points as the Americans bounced back from their 101-95 loss to Greece a night earlier. James finished with nine rebounds and seven assists.
Argentina (7-2) was trying for its third straight medal in a major event after winning silver in the 2002 world championships and gold two years ago in Athens — with victories over the United States during both.
But the Argentineans couldn't overcome foul trouble to Manu Ginobili, Fabricio Oberto and Luis Scola, the mainstays of those teams. All three spent significant time on the bench in the second half.
Ginobili, the San Antonio Spurs star, didn't make a field goal until midway through the fourth quarter and finished with 10 points. Scola led Argentina with 19 points and Andres Nocioni, who plays for the Chicago Bulls, scored 18.
Ginobili and James hugged as the game ended, while Nocioni shared a laugh with Kirk Hinrich, his Bulls teammate.
After collecting their bronze medals, James and Chris Paul threw their sneakers into the crowd of more than 16,000 at the Saitama Super Arena.
The United States trailed for most of the first half before finally beginning to pull away late in the third quarter. Then it was time for Wade to take over.
Slashing to the basket or beating the Argentina zone from the outside, he scored 14 of 16 U.S. points during one stretch. His back-to-back 3s gave the Americans their biggest lead at 91-75 with 2:52 to play.
Wade made his first start of the tournament, joining James, Anthony, Dwight Howard and Kirk Hinrich. They couldn't solve the Americans' defensive woes from a night earlier, as Argentina started 8-of-10 to take a 17-9 lead.
Argentina led 27-21 after one, and remained ahead for most of the second quarter despite playing with only one starter on the floor for most of the period. The United States trailed by nine with just over 4 minutes left before halftime, but rallied to take its only lead of the half when Anthony's 3-pointer with 4.5 seconds left made it 50-49.
The Americans were 10-of-15 in the second quarter, including 3-of-4 behind the arc.
Leading by two in the third, the United States finally got some breathing room with a 10-2 burst. James dunked on an alley-oop pass from Wade, then converted a three-point play that gave the Americans a 67-57 lead with 3:33 remaining in the third quarter.
With Ginobili sitting the entire period, the United States led 69-62 heading to the fourth quarter.
Greece and Spain will play for the gold medal on Sunday.