Sunday, August 17, 2008

BEIJING | Four down, four to go. The U.S. men’s Olympic team is halfway back to the top of the basketball world.

And not even the world champions - on paper anyway - could give the Americans a game.

Unleashing a lethal 3-point barrage for the first time in Beijing, the Americans turned the marquee matchup of the preliminary round into another romp, beating Spain 119-82 Saturday night to clinch the top seed in their group.

LeBron James scored 18 points for the United States (4-0), which hit seven of its first 10 attempts from behind the arc after making only 29 percent in its first three games. They finished at 48 percent (12-for-25), an almost unfair total for a team with unmatched athleticism.

“We shot 45 percent from the 3 and we shot close to 80 from the free throw line, so that’s a plus if we can do that,” James said. “We know we’re going to defend, we know we’re going to get fast break points, but when we can shoot the ball from the outside like that and shoot free throws well it’s going to be tough to beat us.”

Every U.S. player scored - even Jason Kidd for the first time in Beijing - as the Americans turned the matchup of unbeatens into their easiest victory yet. Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony each finished with 16 points.

The Americans will face the No. 4 seed from Group A, either Australia or Croatia, in the quarterfinals. They also wouldn’t have to face Lithuania, the other remaining unbeaten and top seed from the other side, or Spain again until the gold-medal game.

Felipe Reyes scored 19 points for Spain (3-1), the 2006 world champion. The Spanish have won eight of their last 10 Olympic games, but the two losses were against the Americans. They hope to get another crack next Sunday on the final day of the Beijing Games.

“It was something for us personally to say, ‘Where do we measure up with the champions?’” Kobe Bryant said. “And this was a big game for us.”

China 59, Germany 55

Yao Ming scored 25 points to lead China to a thrilling win, putting the hosts on course for a second straight appearance in the medal round.

Australia 95, Russia 80

Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut scored 22 points to lead Australia to a win over the European champions in Group A.

Lithuania 86, Croatia 73

In another Group A game, Mindaugas Lukauskis scored 20 points to lead Lithuania. Narrowly behind for the first three quarters, Lithuania turned on the heat in the fourth, capitalizing on Croatian mistakes and nailing outside shots.

Argentina 97, Iran 82

San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobli scored 32 points to boost the defending Olympic champions over Asian champion Iran.

Greece 102, Angola 41

In Group B, Ioannis Bourousis scored 22 points in Greece’s rout.

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