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LONDON – Overpowering and dominant in a way not seen since the 1992 Dream Team, the Americans are now two wins from a second straight Olympic gold medal.
Now, Argentina awaits for the third straight time in the semifinals. Spain will take on Russia in the other semifinal game.
"We're ready," Carmelo Anthony said.
Pushed by teammate Kevin Durant to "turn it on," Kobe Bryant scored 20 points — all in the second half — and the U.S. team stomped its way into the semifinals with a 119-86 win on Wednesday night over Australia, which scrapped as hard as it could until the world's best team put the game away.
We have maybe a five-percent chance of winning. But we are going to fight for that.
Bryant made six 3-pointers, LeBron James racked up a triple-double with 11 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists and the U.S. moved a step closer to gold on the 20th anniversary of the '92 team's historic rampage in Barcelona. With NBA Commissioner David Stern and two-time Olympian Dwyane Wade watching from the stands, the Americans set up a rematch in the semifinals with Argentina — a team they buried by 29 in the preliminary round.
Unless the Argentines, with their roster of thirty-somethings, can find a way to slow down the U.S., another lopsided loss seems inevitable.
"We have maybe a five-percent chance of winning," forward Manu Ginobili said after Argentina beat Brazil 82-77 to set up a third straight meeting with the U.S. in the semifinals. "But we are going to fight for that."
Bryant had been more than spectacular since coming to London. He entered the quarterfinals averaging just 9.4 points per game, touching off questions about whether he was hurt, disinterested or perhaps unable to produce the same way Anthony, Durant and James have been.
Nobody's wondering any longer.
"He was a little sleepy out there," Anthony sad. "I guess I woke up the Mamba and he responded."
Deron Williams added 18 points, Anthony 17 and Durant 14 for the Americans, who pounded Argentina 126-97 on Monday night in their preliminary-round finale. Tempers flared in that one when Argentina guard Facunda Campazzo intentionally punched Anthony in the groin. Campazzo said he retaliated for being punched earlier by U.S. guard Chris Paul, who never denied that he took a swipe at Campazzo.
"Which time," Paul said. "We tangled 1,000 times."
Anthony doesn't expect the Argentines to play nice again.
"You just have to go out there and take them punches — not literally," he said. "We're excited about it. Just now in the huddle we said we gotta prepare for them."
All that's between the U.S. and a gold medal now is Argentina, a dangerous team with swagger and experience, and a matchup with the Russia-Spain semifinal winner.
The Americans have tangled with the Spaniards before, beating them in the gold-medal game four years ago. A matchup with Russia would rekindle Cold Ward memories and the 1972 final in Munich, when the U.S. had its 63-game winning streak stopped amid a controversial ending still debated today.
The U.S. has shown moments of vulnerability in this tourney. Not many, but a few.
It came in as the team to beat, and through six games, that hasn't changed.
"We don't have no weaknesses," Anthony said. "None."
Spain Outlasts France
Spain players were about the only thing the French could hit in the final minutes, the Spanish holding them to one meaningless basket in the final 6:50 of a 66-59 victory Wednesday that sent the 2008 silver medalists to the semifinals of the Olympic men's basketball tournament.
Marc Gasol scored 14 points, but it was the defense that won this game for the usually high-scoring Spanish.
"We still have to find our flow, we still have to find our best game offensively. But I like the way we were competing today," said Pau Gasol, who had two huge blocked shots down the stretch.
Trailing 57-54 after Batum's basket with 6:51 to play, Spain didn't allow another point until Mickael Gelabale's jumper with 5.5 seconds remaining, ending a two-game losing streak.
Juan Carlos Navarro added 12 points and Pau Gasol 10 for the Spanish, who advance to play Russia on Friday.
The Spanish kept hopes alive for the gold-medal game rematch against the Americans, who beat them 118-107 in Beijing.
France had won four straight after losing to the U.S. in its opener and seemed in good shape for much of this one.
The French controlled much of the first half, leading by as many as eight, with Parker's speed giving Spain all sorts of trouble. Diaw, his Spurs teammate, scored 10 points and the French were ahead 37-34 at the break.
Spain came out of the locker room with seven straight, going ahead 41-37 on Marc Gasol's 3-pointer with 7:11 remaining in the third. It remained close throughout the period, France bringing a 53-51 edge to the fourth.
Reported and written by the Associated Press.