Though the Americans did have a close game against Lithuania, they are averaging 116.7 points — right behind the Dream Team’s record of 117.3 — with a low of 98.
They’ve defended only as much as they felt they needed to — and that hasn’t been much — but came out locked in on that end Friday.
Durant blocked Luis Scola’s shot into the U.S. bench, then stole his pass for an uncontested dunk and a 15-4 lead. A 3-pointer by Bryant made it 18-6, but Argentina ran off nine straight points to get within three, and the U.S. lead was just 24-19 after one.
With the U.S. leading by three early in the second, Krzyzewski inserted James, Bryant and Durant together, and James quickly took over the game. Powering to the basket and daring any Argentine player to get in front of him, he scored seven straight points, turning a 30-27 edge into a 10-point lead.
The Argentines hung in behind their 3-point shooting, Ginobili beating the buzzer with their fifth of the period to pull within 47-40 at the half.
Scola and Carlos Delfino added 15 points apiece for Argentina, trying to go out with a third straight Olympic medal for its “Golden Generation,” the group of veterans who helped the Argentines replace the Americans atop the basketball world for a time.
But they haven’t been able to find enough young stars to mix in with their old-timers, while the Americans have blended in youngsters like Durant and Russell Westbrook from their team that won the world basketball championships two years ago.