LONDON (AP) — One 3-pointer after another, Kevin Durant shot down Argentina — and perhaps the notion that defense wins championships.
This USA men’s Olympic basketball team is living proof that the best defense is a good offense. The road to gold in London is built on scores, not stops.
Durant scored 17 of his 28 points during the Americans’ 42-point third quarter, turning a one-point game into a blowout that sent the United States soaring into the quarterfinals with a 126-97 victory on Monday night.
Two nights after surviving their first real test in a 99-94 victory over Lithuania, the Americans seemed headed for another tight finish. Argentina shot 56 percent in the first half and the USA led just 60-59.
Minutes later, the game — the last before single-elimination play starts — was effectively over.
“I think we did a great job of responding from last game,” Durant said. “It was a tough game and so was the first half tonight. Guys played together. That second half is how we want to play.”
The NBA scoring champion matched the Argentines’ point total in the period, going 5-of-6 from 3-point range, the last one from well beyond 25 feet. The Americans didn’t stop shooting and scoring until Carmelo Anthony made a 3-pointer in the final second of the quarter while taking what he and the United States bench right behind him felt was a cheap shot from Argentina’s Facundo Campazzo.
It was too late by then for the Argentines. They needed to get closer to the USA shooters much sooner, and that was hard to do from some of the spots where Durant was pulling up.
The Americans (5-0) will play Australia (3-2) in a quarterfinal game Wednesday.
LeBron James added 18 points, including the Americans’ first seven of the third quarter before Durant took over. Chris Paul finished with 17.
“We’re great shooting team, but in close games sometimes you’ve got to go down and get some easy ones, and I wanted the ball, whether it was layups or in the post,” James said. “Once you get a couple easy ones at the rim, then the 3-pointers open up and you saw what KD was able to do.”
Durant’s 3-pointer after James’ surge gave the United States 10 points in 2:10 of the second half, and he made back-to-back 3s midway through the period to make it 85-68. Then he nailed consecutive 3s again later in the quarter, one from beyond the hash line, a distance that most players would never consider pulling up from.
“I really didn’t pay attention to where the line was,” Durant said. “When I caught that ball I was going to shoot it.”
USA 4, Canada 3, OT
Alex Morgan’s looping header gave the USA women’s soccer team a dramatic 4-3 overtime victory against Canada on Monday night.
And this physical classic was only the semifinal.
Morgan put the United States in front for the first time in the third minute of injury time at Old Trafford. Megan Rapinoe scored in the 54th and 70th minutes, and Abby Wambach in the 80th on a penalty for the USA.
Morgan’s 6-yard header, on a long cross from Heather O’Reilly, went high into the net over goalkeeper Erin McLeod for the winning score.
The Americans overcame a hat trick from Christine Sinclair, who scored in the 22nd, 67th and 73rd minutes for Canada.
Next comes the game the American players have been eyeing for more than a year, a rematch with Japan on Thursday at Wembley Stadium with gold on the line. The top-ranked Americans lost to Japan on penalty kicks in the World Cup final last summer.
“This is redemption for us,” midfielder Carli Lloyd said. “We know how hard it was for us after that game. It hurt us for a really long time.”
Japan advanced with a 2-1 victory over France.