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U.S. beats Argentina 91-76 to reach Americas semifinals

U.S. beats Argentina 91-76 to reach Americas semifinals

Kobe Bryant scored 27 points and the United States cruised into the semifinals of the Americas tournament by beating Argentina 91-76 on Thursday.
The Americans took control early and were never threatened in the matchup with the defending Olympic gold medalists, who also came in undefeated despite playing this tournament without the core of their team.
The Americans will face Puerto Rico in one of Saturday's semifinal games, while Argentina will meet Brazil in the other.
The two finalists get a berth in the 2008 Olympics.
That seems likely for a U.S. team (8-0) that had overwhelmed its opponents before playing their toughest foe in the finale of round-robin play.
While this game was closer, it wasn't much harder. Bryant hit his first three shots to get the Americans off to a quick start, and they led by as many as 25 points in a game that was never in doubt after the opening minutes.
Argentina beat the U.S. in the 2002 world championships, then did it again in the semifinals of the Athens Olympics. The Americans avenged that loss with a victory in the bronze medal game at last year's worlds.
But the Argentinians arrived in Las Vegas without some of the top players from those teams. Manu Ginobili and Fabricio Oberto, starters for the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, opted to rest this summer along with Chicago's Andres Nocioni and Charlotte's Walter Herrmann.
That left Luis Scola, who scored 20 points, and Carlos Delfino as the mainstays of those teams who opted to play. A victory over Brazil on Saturday would guarantee their teammates could return in Beijing.
Puerto Rico, on the verge of being eliminated from the tournament four days ago, made its way to the semifinals with a 72-66 victory over Canada.
Last Sunday night, Puerto Rico looked like it wouldn't even reach the second round of this 10-team tournament. It needed Argentina to beat Panama and with two minutes left in regulation time, Argentina was down seven points before rallying to win.
"Our thanks go to the Argentina basketball team because they gave us the opportunity and that's the kind of gift basketball gives," said Puerto Rico guard Carlos Arroyo. "We knew we had to take advantage of it in the second round and show the kind of team we have."
Puerto Rico won three of its four games in the second round and the last was the win over Canada (3-4), which looked to be a rout early in the fourth quarter but turned into a game decided by free throws.
Two minutes into the fourth quarter, Puerto Rico led 62-43. Then Canada suddenly started hitting shots and went on an 11-0 run.
Canada closed within two points with 21 seconds left.
Jose Juan Barea made two free throws for Puerto Rico with 16 seconds left and Filiberto Rivera added two more for the final margin.
Even though Canada didn't reach the semifinals, it _ along with the semifinals losers here _ will advance to an Olympic qualifying tournament next July when the final three berths in Beijing will be decided.
"We all get a little greedy," Canada coach Leo Rautins said. "The top two go from here and that's what we wanted but realistically, with this team's age and experience, the top five gets us where we want to be. We'll be a year older and a year stronger. The road's just beginning. The door didn't close, it swung wide open for us to get where we want to be next year."
Arroyo, who led Puerto Rico with 22 points, said the team would approach the U.S. game positively.
"It's still possible so we have to keep our focus," he said of beating the United States, which won the second-round meeting 117-78. "We can't show up with the defeat mentality. It's in our hands. We have a very talented team and we have to play like we're capable of doing it."
Leandro Barbosa's 32 points led Brazil to a 96-62 victory over Uruguay to set up a semifinal against great sporting rival Argentina.
Brazil lost to Argentina in overtime in their second-round meeting.
"Since we lost yesterday we came in with a lot more energy and was more physical," said Brazil center Nene. "We'll bring that energy Saturday. It will be a big game for both teams."
Uruguay scored the opening basket of the second half to get within 44-39, but Brazil used its depth and size advantage to take over. Brazil scored 10 straight points and held Uruguay to just three more field goals in the quarter in opening a 74-45 lead.
Esteban Batista, the only player in the tournament to average a double-double with 21.3 points and 12.7 rebounds, finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead Uruguay.
"It was tough today but we tried," Uruguay coach Alberto Espasandin said. "But Esteban couldn't handle it all by himself."
Uruguay missed out on the Olympic qualifying tournament, as it needed Canada to beat Puerto Rico.


Updated : 2021-03-08 18:32 GMT+08:00