Durant masterclass fires U.S. into semis

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A masterclass performance by forward Kevin Durant steered the United States into the world championship semi-finals with an 89-79 victory over Russia on Thursday.

The Americans next face Lithuania who brushed aside Argentina 104-85 after hitting eight three-pointers from nine attempts in the first half on the way to a staggering 32-point lead at the end of the third quarter.

Oklahoma Thunder's Durant scored 33 points and grabbed five rebounds as the U.S. overcame a spirited challenge by the Russians who led 35-30 in the second quarter.

A 12-0 American run following a timeout swung the pendulum and the tournament favorites never looked back, taking a commanding 79-61 lead after a Durant three-pointer early in the final period.

"It was a tough game and you have to give credit to Russia for playing hard for 40 minutes straight, but we are now looking forward to moving on," Durant told a news conference.

"We had to make corrections at halftime and made it tougher for their guard on pick-and-roll plays, while we penetrated their zone at the other end and got a lot of shots at the rim."

Russia's American coach David Blatt praised the U.S. team for quickly adapting to international rules while making the best use of their skills.

"They recognized and realized how to play the European game and at the same time still maintained the elements and the advantages the American player and the American game has to offer," Blatt said.


Having reached the last eight with a 5-1 record after playing some wonderfully entertaining basketball, Argentina were blown away by an athletic Lithuanian team who had seven players in double scoring digits.

Simas Jasaitis led the way with 19 points, shooting four of seven from three-point range, Linas Kleiza added 17 and nine rebounds and Martynas Pocius and Tomas Delininkaitis chipped in with 16 each.

Argentina forward Carlos Delfino enjoyed a game-high 25 points but the tournament's top scorer Luis Scola, tightly marked throughout the contest, was limited to 13 after making only five of his 16 field goals.

Lithuania led 85-53 after the third quarter and although the Argentines staged a brief fightback to cut the deficit to 92-75, they could not stop the 2003 European champions from going through.

"We prepared physically and mentally, especially mentally and made the best use of more resources on the bench," Lithuania coach Kestutis Kemzura said.

"We started aggressively in defense and one of the key moments was stopping Scola and his pick-and-roll connection with guard Pablo Prigioni.

"This is a real achievement for our team," added Kemzura, whose new-look side were not given much of a chance after several regular starters pulled out of the 24-team tournament.