Olympics: Basketball

U.S. women’s basketball wins 5th straight gold in a rout

The U.S. women’s basketball team celebrates winning the gold medal. (Charles Krupa/The Associated Press)

The U.S. women’s basketball team won its fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal Saturday with an 86-50 rout of hopelessly outmatched France.

With the triumph, the American women extended their unbeaten streak in Olympic competition to 41 games — a record that dates to the bronze they won at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

The Americans rolled through the 2012 London Games with overwhelming force, beating opponents by an average of 34 points.

After a somewhat rocky start in Saturday’s gold-medal game, in which the lead changed hands three times, the Americans blew open the contest with a 21-1 run in the third quarter that was spurred by Candace Parker.

France, playing the gold-medal game for the first time in Olympic history, posed only a minor inconvenience for the deep, tall and talented American squad.

The Americans were led by Parker’s 21 points.

It was the third gold medal for U.S. veterans Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Tamika Catchings.

It was an overpowering display of superior skill that demonstrated that women’s basketball, while increasingly popular around the world, is far from a global game.

U.S. women’s basketball erupts in third quarter, leads 63-37

Candace Parker of the U.S. drives to the basket in the women’s basketball gold medal game. (Victor R. Caivano/The Associated Press)

After a rocky first quarter, the heavily favored U.S. women’s basketball has put the gold-medal game out of reach for France, exploding for a 21-1 run in the third quarter.

With one 10-minute period remaining, the U.S. leads the Olympic gold-medal game 63-37.

U.S. co-captain Sue Bird scored back-to-back baskets to open the second half scoring for her team.

Once France pulled within 10, trailing 31-21, Coach Geno Auriemma replaced his second-half starter Tina Charles with Candace Parker, who was simply outstanding coming off the bench in the first half, leading all players with 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting while grabbing nine rebounds.

Bird hit just the American’s second third-pointer of the game to put the U.S. ahead by its biggest margin to date, 50-32.

And the chemistry that had been missing early finally kicked in, with Diana Taurasi hitting Parker for an easy lay-up and Bird firing a terrific outlet pass to Maya Moore.

The Americans’ lead was 54-32.

U.S. leads France 37-25 at halftime

Lindsay Whalen lays the ball up against Edwige Lawson-Wade of France in the gold medal game. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The U.S. outscored France 17-10 in a second-half scoring spurt led by Candace Parker to take a 37-25 lead at halftime of the gold-medal women’s basketball game.

Parker scored 11 of those points—including eight consecutive for the heavily favored Americans at North Greenwich Arena.

But overall, both teams are shooting well below their tournament averages, with the U.S. hitting just 39.5 percent of its shots and France, 28 percent.

Parker, a 6-4 Tennessee product on a Connecticut-heavy roster, single-handedly kept the U.S. out front in the second 10-minute quarter.

Both teams tried pushing the pace. But while they succeeded in forcing turnovers, neither could finish shots.

After an ugly scoreless stretch, Parker hit a lay-up then drove to the basket on the next sequence for a beautiful scoop shot that put the U.S. ahead, 32-23.

With that, Parker accounted for 12 of the American’s 32 points in the game. And she wasn’t done, finishing the half with 15 points on 7 of 9 shooting and a team-high nine rebounds

Shortly before the break, U.S. point guard Sue Bird drew a second foul and sat.

The Americans are seeking a fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal.

U.S. women lead France, 20-15, after first quarter

The highly favored U.S. women’s basketball team struggled with poor shooting and out-of-kilter chemistry in the first quarter of its gold-medal game against France.

But with Candace Parker entering the game to provide a steadying presence inside, the U.S. has taken a 20-15 lead.

Coach Geno Auriemma fielded a starting lineup of Sue Bird, Maya Moore, Tamika Catchings, Diana Taurasi and Tina Charles.

Taurasi struck early from three-point range, but the Americans struggled to finish their shots inside.

Maya Moore entered and put the U.S. up 11-9.

France took a 13-11 lead on a three-pointer by Edwige Lawson-Wade.

The misfiring Americans, who shot 33 percent through the early going,  reclaimed the lead with a basket by Candace Parker, fed nicely by Taurasi.

And the U.S. offense started creating offense out of defense, forcing turnovers and racing down court for easy baskets.

On France’s fifth turnover, the Americans took a 20-15 lead but still left open looks wanting.

Among those in attendance are NBA Commissioner David Stern and Kobe Bryant.

U.S. women’s basketball seeks 5th straight gold

Diana Taurasi (left) and Sue Bird will try to lead the U.S. to a fifth straight gold. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Asked how he planned to prepare for Saturday’s gold-medal game against U.S. women’s basketball team, which hasn’t lost an Olympic game in 20 years, French coach Pierre Vincent said: “I am going to party.”

Indeed, there’s a sense that the outcome is pre-ordained at North Greenwich Arena tonight.

All that remains is the coronation.

The U.S. women are riding a 40-game Olympic winning streak that dates to their bronze at Barcelona in 1992. With a victory tonight, they’d claim their fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal.

And though France has a talented point guard in Celine Dumerc, who’s averaging a tournament-high 15.1 points per game, it’s difficult to see Les Bleus toppling the Americans, whom Vincent described as “invincible.”

Maybe he’s trying to take the pressure off his French players—the first French squad to reach the last four of an Olympics basketball tournament. After toppling Russia 81-64 in Thursday’s semifinal, the French celebrated on court for nearly 15 minutes.

“We are all possessed with Olympic magic!” Vincent said.

Magic will likely be needed to deny U.S. veterans Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Tamika Catchings their third gold medals tonight.

The U.S. women are the tournament’s top scorers, averaging 91.3 points per game. They’ve yet to score fewer than 81 points in the tournament, while France has yet to score more than 81. The Americans also lead all teams in rebounds, blocks and steals.

Earlier Saturday, Australia defeated Russia 83-74 for bronze.

Australia women win basketball bronze

Lauren Jackson drives against Natalya Vieru of Russia during the bronze medal game. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Australia beat Russia, 83-74, to claim the bronze medal in women’s basketball. Lauren Jackson scored 25 points to lead Australia, which medalled for the fifth straight Olympics. Becky Hammon scored 19 for Russia.

The Associated Press has the full story here.

The United States meets France in the gold medal game at 4 p.m. ET.

Anthony, U.S. finish off Argentina, will play for gold

Carmelo Anthony helped lead the U.S. past Argentina and into the gold medal game. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Carmelo Anthony caused his teammates to leap and dance Thursday afternoon, burying three straight three-pointers in the fourth quarter as the U.S. men’s basketball team pulled away to a 109-83 victory over Argentina in an Olympic semifinal. The United States will face Spain — which they beat in the final game in 2008 in Beijing — for gold on Sunday.

Kevin Durant of Suitland, Md., led the Americans with 19 points, and Anthony and LeBron James added 18 apiece for the United States, which buried Argentina with three-pointers. The Americans hit 17 of 41 from beyond the arc, and Anthony’s run early in the fourth helped continue a rout that began in the third quarter.

The U.S. beat Spain 118-107 in the gold medal game four years ago.

The only concern for the Americans: With under four minutes remaining in the game, reserve guard Russell Westbrook limped off the court and to the locker room.

U.S. starts to pull away from Argentina

Argentina’s Carlos Delfino goes up for a shot against LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Kevin Durant hit four three-pointers in the third quarter alone, and LeBron James continued to help his team all over the court, as the U.S. men’s basketball team built a 74-57 lead over Argentina in the semifinals of the Olympic men’s basketball tournament through three quarters.

James leads the Americans with 18 points, while Durant has 16. Kobe Bryant has 13.

The Americans extended a seven-point halftime lead to 59-46 when Durant knocked down a three-pointer with 6:28 left in the quarter. But the United States also grew too happy to take long-distance shots. On one possession, after Argentina had climbed back within eight, Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams all took, and missed, threes.

So James slashed to the basket to get the Americans back in rhythm. On consecutive possessions, he scored on a drive and a dunk — the latter an old-fashioned three-point play — to build the lead back to 13.

Durant then hit back-to-back three-pointers, and when James scored on a tip-in, the United States had its biggest lead at 72-53.

James asserts himself in second quarter

LeBron James drives to the basket in an Olympic semifinal against Argentina. (AFP PHOTO/MARK RALSTON)

LeBron James, who has generally tended to passing and defending during the Olympic tournament, made an offensive push in the second quarter of the U.S. men’s basketball team’s semifinal against Argentina, helping the Americans to a 47-40 halftime lead.

After a typically quiet first quarter — James came into the game averaging only 11.5 points per game during the tournament — he all but took over as Argentina put pressure on the United States. In a two-and-a-half-minute span, James drove for one basket, slashed through the lane and took a feed from Chris Paul for another, used a nice move to free himself underneath for the next, then drove and was fouled. That gave him nine points in that run as the U.S. built a 37-27 lead.

The United States, the only undefeated team remaining in the tournament, closed the half with an outstanding pass from James to Kevin Love for a layup. But Manu Ginobili’s three-pointer at the buzzer kept Argentina within seven.