LONDON – Kobe Bryant displayed a sizzling shooting touch by sinking three 3-pointers in a row in 31 seconds on Wednesday as the United States beat Australia 119-86 to reach the Olympic basketball semi-finals.
“I just found myself in a pretty good rhythm,” Bryant said after the NBA Dream Team’s win.
“I found myself with some daylight and things were going in for me.”
Bryant scored 20 points, his dazzling fourth-quarter display part of a run of four 3-pointers in 67 seconds that helped the US multi-millionaires subdue the pesky Boomers, who were led by 26 points from NBA guard Patrick Mills.
“I was searching for something to get me going, something to ‘activate the Black Mamba’ as coach calls it,” Bryant said. “I found something to get me on the edge and I rode that the rest of the game.”
The NBA stars reached a Friday semi-final against Argentina, which beat arch-rival Brazil 82-77 in another quarter-final. Argentina upset the Americans in the 2004 Olympics semi-finals but lost to them in the 2008 semi-finals.
“We’ve got to be in full throttle from the start against Argentina,” US star Carmelo Anthony said.
Reigning European champion Spain, which lost to the US NBA squad in the 2008 Beijing final, will face Russia in the other semi-final.
Deron Williams had 18 points and Anthony added 17 while NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant had 14 and LeBron James added 11 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists for the Americans.
“He was phenomenal,” Bryant said of James. “You have certain players who are so athletic the ball seems to come to them and they make great plays.”
That’s how Bryant was when he was in “the zone”, the same second-half hot shooting streak that has been seen from James, Anthony and Durant in prior US games.
After the last of his 3-pointers he turned his his hands, a shrug as if to say even he wasn’t sure how it happened. But he finished 6-of-10 from 3-point range, also hitting two 3-pointers back-to-back in the third quarter.
The US NBA stars led 56-42 at half-time but Aussie Joe Ingles hit two 3-pointers and Mills had five points in an 11-0 Australian run to open the second half and lift the Boomers within 56-53.
“I pushed the button at half-time,” Anthony said. “I said something to him. He woke up. It took Kobe to get hot in the third quarter to get us going.”
Bryant wasn’t giving Anthony any credit for the hot streak.
“He was just saying, ‘Let me see you. I want to see what I see during the (NBA) season,’” Bryant said. “At that point, I was already warmed up.”
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Bryant put the US multi-millionaires ahead 70-58 with 4:39 to play in the third quarter and they kept that margin until a fast break basket by Anthony lifted the lead to 84-70 entering the fourth quarter.
Mills sank a 3-pointer to pull Australia within 92-78 with 6:40 to play but Bryant answered 50 seconds later and then sank his three 3-pointers in a row in a span a 31 seconds, a staggering display that sealed the Aussies’ fate.
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