There is but one step left of the U.S. men’s basketball team, one ore step to claim the Olympic gold medal and then entertain all the questions about where it ranks in the pantheon of U.S. squads.
The Americans advanced to the championship game by dismantling Argentina Friday, 109-83, on the strength of another outstanding perimeter shooting display.
This time, Team USA made 18 three pointers to overwhelm Argentina, which got 18 points from the San Antonio Spurs’ Manu Ginobili. His team would need to defeat Russia in the bronze-medal game Sunday.
That would be played before the U.S. takes on Pau Gasol and Spain for the gold medal. The same two teams played four years ago, with American taking the goal.
To get to Sunday, Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City led Team USA with 19 points and LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony contribute 18 each.
The Americans appear to be more potent and deeper than the team of four years ago. In the third straight Olympic semifinal between the U.S. and Argentina, the Americans kept pulling ahead only to see the Argentines climb back in — until James and Durant finally put them away for good.
Argentina hung around until early in the second half, just as it did Monday in the final game of pool play.
And just like that night, the Americans hit them with a wave of dunks and 3-pointers in the third quarter that turned it into a romp.
While not quite as explosive as their 42-17 period in Monday’s 126-97 win, this one had just as many highlights.
Ahead by only four after Ginobili opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer, the Americans pulled away with James’ strength and Durant’s finesse.
Durant made two 3-pointers in an 8-0 spurt that pushed the lead to 13, and when Argentina got back within eight, the NBA’s MVP and runner-up teamed up to blow it open.
James had a basket and drove for a powerful dunk while being fouled. Durant followed with consecutive 3-pointers, and James tipped in a miss and suddenly the lead was 19, 72-53, with 1:30 left in the period.
It became a runaway in the fourth when Anthony hit three 3-pointers in 42 seconds, the American bench spilling onto the floor as he strutted back to midcourt after the last one made it 93-64.
The U.S. beat Spain 118-107 in the Beijing final, pulling away after leading by just four with about 2½ minutes left.