- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 19, 2008

BEIJING | The U.S. basketball team put away Dirk Nowitzki and Germany in a hurry.

Next up: The only team the Americans couldn’t blow out in this country.

After beating Germany 106-57 on Monday, the Americans (5-0) move on to a quarterfinal matchup Wednesday against Australia, the team that’s provided them with their toughest test in China.

The United States led by only seven points midway through the fourth quarter of an 87-76 exhibition victory in Shanghai two weeks ago over an Australian team that didn’t have starting center Andrew Bogut of the Milwaukee Bucks. He was resting a sore right ankle.

It’s hard to imagine a repeat of that semi-Shanghai surprise the way the United States has played in Beijing.

“Nobody is going to beat them. No way. It’s just not going to happen,” Germany’s Chris Kaman said.

Dwight Howard scored 22 points, and LeBron James had 18, including 16 in the first half, Monday as the United States completed an undefeated march through pool play.

Not since the Dream Team rumbled through Las Ramblas 16 years ago in Barcelona has a team been this dominant. The Americans won their pool games by 32.2 points and averaged 103.0 points.

“We feel like we’re playing very well right now, but you have to keep in mind it’s single elimination,” Kobe Bryant said. “You can’t afford any slip-ups.”

The only thing they might have to work on is Bryant’s dunking. He blew two Monday but hit three 3-pointers after going only 5-for-24 in the first four games.

Bryant finished with 13 points as the Americans shot 55 percent from the floor and tossed in 11 more 3-pointers after making 12 in their last game.

With the top seed in their group already clinched, the Americans could have come out flat like Lithuania, which entered Monday as the other unbeaten and was trounced 106-75 by Australia.

Instead, they came out and flattened Germany.

The Americans scored three seconds into the game when Howard batted the tip to James, who threw it ahead to Carmelo Anthony for a layup. That was the start of an 8-0 run and the end of any suspense.

Germany missed nine of its first 10 shots, including a blown dunk and a botched putback by Kaman, a Los Angeles Clippers center. Bryant missed a dunk, too, during that stretch, but Howard and James had consecutive slams to make it 18-3.

“Going against Greece and going against Spain, it was really easy to get up for,” James said. “And we could have easily came in and had one of those games where we make excuses, but we didn’t take a step backwards today, and that was good. It was really good.”

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