LONDON - Carmelo Anthony was happy to take the credit. "I was on him,'' he said of teammate Kobe Bryant, who scored 20 points -- including 12 in a span of 67 seconds in the fourth quarter -- during a 119-86 blowout of Australia on Wednesday. "I woke the bomb up, and he responded. I know which button to push.''
Bryant just laughed. Though he admitted to being inspired as the U.S. men powered through their Olympic basketball quarterfinal, he wasn't specific about what raised his game. Whatever it was, it made him the latest player on the roster to take a star turn as the Americans continued their march toward Sunday's gold medal game.
Bryant led his team in scoring, with all of his points coming in the second half, as the U.S. shook off the pesky Australians at North Greenwich Arena. When he recorded his first two, the U.S. led 63-56 with 6 minutes, 39 seconds to play in the third quarter. When he scored his 20th, completing a string of four consecutive three- pointers, the American lead had ballooned to 25 points.
LeBron James remained a constant for the U.S., getting most of his 11 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists when his team needed a catalyst. Bryant had his best game of the Olympics just in time to set up a rematch against Argentina in Friday's semifinals.
"I was looking for something to get me going, to try to find the edge and ride it for the rest of the game,'' Bryant said. "[Anthony] said, 'Let me see you. I want to see what I see during the [NBA] season.' But at that point, I was already revved up.
"With this team, you get a lot of easy shots, because you're playing with so many great players. I found myself in a pretty good rhythm, with daylight to shoot the ball, and they went in for me.''
Before the game, U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski lauded the Australians for their spirit, heart and man-to-man defense. They thanked him for the compliment by demonstrating all three. The Aussies hung with Krzyzewski's team for most of the first half, then started the second with an 11-0 run to cut the U.S. lead to 56-53.
Bryant missed all four of his two-point attempts but was sharp from three-point range, dropping in six of 10. As Australia got sloppy --committing seven turnovers in the third quarter -- Anthony led the Americans on a 21-12 streak to take firm control of the game. When Bryant heated up in the fourth, they put it well out of reach.
The U.S. has not lost a game in the Olympics since Argentina beat it in the semifinals of the 2004 Games in Athens. It crushed Argentina 126-97 in pool play Monday but won a pre-Olympic exhibition by a much closer margin, 86-80.