James goes 11-for-11 in first half to carry unbeaten Americans
LAS VEGAS -- LeBron James soared for powerful dunks, pulled up for flawless 3-pointers. And when the halftime buzzer sounded, there was only one way to describe his play.
James was 11-for-11 from the field, making all four of his 3-point attempts, and scored 26 points in the first half Wednesday night to lead the United States to a 118-79 victory over Uruguay in the FIBA Americas tournament.
In a sensational display of speed and power, James raised his tournament-leading shooting percentage to an almost comical 79.7 percent (47-of-59). He is 14-of-20 from 3-point range, a 70 percent mark that also leads the event.
Despite playing only 14 minutes, he fell two points shy of the American record in an Olympic qualifying game shared by Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson.
"That first half was awesome, it was as good as I've seen," said Chauncey Billups, whose Pistons watched James score 48 points against them in the Eastern Conference finals. "That second [quarter] was just phenomenal. I was just happy I was there to see it. The dunks, the 3-point shots, he just wouldn't miss."
The Americans will face fellow unbeaten Argentina on Thursday in the final game of the second round. A victory would send the United States into Saturday's semifinals as the No. 1 seed.
Argentina beat the United States in the semifinals at the 2004 Olympics, a loss the Americans avenged last year in the bronze medal game at the world championships.
"It's definitely become a rivalry between us, so tomorrow will be a big game for us and a big game for them," James said. "If we continue doing what we've been doing for the last two weeks, we'll be fine."
That will be the sixth straight night with a game for the Americans, but the easy victory Wednesday allowed them to get some rest. U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski rested his starters for the entire second half, but the Americans still had no problem meeting the 117.5 average they entered the game at -- just shy of the 121.2 the Dream Team averaged in 1992.
Anthony missed the whole game with a bruised right heel, an injury that wasn't considered serious. He complained of pain Wednesday morning, though it wasn't known if he was hurt during Tuesday's victory over Puerto Rico. Michael Redd started in his place and scored nine points.
"We play hard every game and tonight we did against the USA, that will never change," Batista said. "We'll do the same tomorrow and again we will be the smaller team like we were against the USA. It's always the same for us."
Uruguay played even with the United States for the first 5 minutes and trailed by only 12 after a basket by Batista with 7½ minutes remaining in the first half. The U.S. starters returned less than a minute later, beginning James' highlight reel.
He threw down a dunk about 15 seconds after returning, then added consecutive layups after passes from Jason Kidd 17 seconds apart to push the lead to 43-25 with 5:44 remaining in the half.
"LeBron doesn't have to score a point," Krzyzewski said. "He's not looking for his points, he takes what's there."
When James nailed a 3-pointer with 2:39 left to improve to 10-of-10, 4-of-4 behind the arc, all that seemed missing was a shoulder shrug like Michael Jordan made after hitting all six of his 3-point attempts in the first half of Game 1 of the 1992 NBA finals against Portland.
"When he gets that jumper going, you can just forget about it because he's so strong in other parts of his game, going to the basket and finishing [with] two or three guys hanging on him," Billups said. "You just try to play him for his jump shot, and when he's got that jump shot going, what can you do?"
James capped his half with one more dunk, going high above the rim and viciously throwing the ball down, stopping to look at the crowd for a second after he landed. The Americans led 66-38 at halftime after shooting 63 percent (25-of-40) in the first half.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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