LONDON -- Kevin Durant shot the U.S. men's Olympic basketball team out of trouble, and right into the top seed in their group.
Durant scored 17 of his 28 points during the Americans' explosive 42-point third quarter, turning a one-point game into a blowout that sent the Americans soaring into the quarterfinals with a 126-97 victory over Argentina Monday night.
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The NBA scoring champion matched the Argentines' point total in the period, going 5 of 6 from three-point range, the last one from well beyond 25 feet. The Americans didn't stop shooting and scoring until Carmelo Anthony made a three-pointer in the final second of the quarter while taking what he and the U.S. bench right behind him believed was a cheap shot from Argentina's Facundo Campazzo, setting off an exchange of words and technical fouls.
The Americans (5-0) will play Australia (3-2) in a quarterfinal game Wednesday.
"We're a great shooting team, but in close games sometimes you've got to go down and get some easy ones, and I wanted the ball, whether it was layups or in the post," James said. "Once you get a couple easy ones at the rim then the three-pointers open up and you saw what KD was able to do."
Two nights after surviving their first real test in a 99-94 victory over Lithuania, it seemed the Americans might be headed for another tight finish. Argentina shot 56 percent in the first half and the United States led just 60-59.
Minutes later, it was effectively over.
Durant's three-pointer after James' surge gave the United States 10 points in 2:10, and he made back-to-back threes midway through the period to make it 85-68. He nailed consecutive threes again later in the quarter, the latter from beyond the hash line, a distance that most players would never consider pulling up from.
"I really didn't pay attention to where the line was," Durant said. "When I caught that ball I was going to shoot it."
Durant, who holds the U.S. scoring record with 38 points in the 2010 world championship, might have threatened that if not for the lopsided score. He checked out for good about a minute into the fourth quarter.
Manu Ginobili scored 16 points for Argentina (3-2), which faces Brazil in the quarterfinals.
A crowd featuring former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield was treated to an offensive show in the first half with little more defense than the NBA All-Star Game. A basket on one end was answered quickly by a shot on the other in what was shaping up as a thriller between the last two Olympic champions.
But the United States simply has too much offense, even if the defense could use some tightening up.
The Americans have two days to work on it before facing the Australians, who pulled a surprise earlier Monday, handing Group B champion Russia its first loss, 82-80, on Patty Mills' three-pointer as time expired.