Basketball: Tempers flare as U.S. sweeps past Argentina
LONDON (Reuters) - A nasty, bad-tempered joust with Argentina's basketball team woke up the sleeping giants from the U.S. on Monday, spurring them to a 126-97 victory that earned a top-seeded berth in the quarter-finals.
Players from both sides were knocked down in a closely-fought first half and they often glowered at each other as the contest turned into a rout for the Americans who had narrowly beaten Lithuania in their previous game.
"Tonight's game was so much fun," U.S. point guard Chris Paul told reporters. "I give Argentina a lot of credit.
"Those guys pushed us, they made us compete. I loved it. When it gets a little chippy here and there, it gets you excited," he said after the players frequently collided going for rebounds.
The muscular LeBron James threw an arm out at one point to sweep experienced Argentine Manu Ginobili off his feet.
After going to intermission locked in a 60-59 struggle, Argentina were buried under a flurry of three-pointers from Kevin Durant.
Durant, who made 8-of-10 three-pointers in the game, nailed four from beyond the arc in a third-quarter stretch that took the U.S. lead from 12 points to 24.
The quarter ended with more physical combat as Carmelo Anthony hit the floor doubled up in pain after making a three-pointer to send the Americans into the fourth session with a 102-76 advantage.
"He got hit in the groin. That's why he buckled. He wasn't celebrating his shot," said coach Mike Krzyzewski.
It seemed a fight might break out at that point as several players from both teams approached each other near mid-court before being separated.
GOLD IN 2004
Argentina won the gold medal in 2004 and are the only nation apart from the U.S. to win the Olympic title since the triumphant American 'Dream Team' was launched at the Barcelona Games in 1992.
"It went very well for the first half and then it got physical in the second," said Argentina coach Julio Lamas who was without starting point guard Pablo Prigioni.
"(To beat) the U.S. we really needed to play a very good game, a perfect game really."
Early in the fourth quarter, Russell Westbrook was given a technical foul for taunting an Argentine player after slamming a dunk through a basket.
After that the game carried on to a peaceful finish.
Durant led the Americans with 28 points. James added 18 while Ginobili scored 16 points as Argentina's high scorer.
"Chippiness is chippiness," said Krzyzewski. "Guys want to win and they play hard.
"That's part of competition. I didn't think our guys or theirs did anything that would be below Olympic standards.
"In fact I thought it was a heck of a game."
The win helped the Americans complete a 5-0 record in Group A and they now face Australia (3-2) in Wednesday's quarter-finals.
Argentina (3-2) next meet arch-rivals Brazil (4-1) while Group B winners Russia (4-1) play Lithuania (2-3) and France (4-1) take on Spain (3-2).