LONDON >> Kobe Bryant felt the game getting close, then put it away from long range.
Bryant made six straight 3-pointers in the second half, LeBron James finished with a triple-double, and the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team advanced to the semifinals with a 119-86 victory today over Australia.
Bryant scored 20 points, flashing three fingers in the air after his third consecutive 3-pointer in the fourth quarter had pushed the game well out of reach and proved that yes, he would deliver the kind of game that’s expected of him in London.
James finished with 11 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists for the Americans, who advanced to their third straight Olympic semifinal meeting with Argentina, which beat Brazil earlier Wednesday. Carmelo Anthony added 17 points and Kevin Durant had 14.
The Americans beat the Argentines 126-97 on Monday in the final game of pool play, yet another night they didn’t need much from Bryant, who came in averaging just 9.4 points as both he and his teammates kept assuring people there was nothing wrong with the five-time NBA champion.
This time was different, and he delivered.
Australia scored the first 11 points of the second half, cutting the Americans’ lead to three after back-to-back 3-pointers by Joe Ingles. The U.S. lead was only six before Bryant, who has never gotten in an offensive rhythm in London and just minutes earlier had committed another puzzling offensive foul, finally broke out.
He made a 3-pointer, then batted away a pass, chased it down along the left sideline, and pulled up for another 3-pointer that made it 70-58. James followed with a basket that pushed it to 14, and the Americans never let the Australians get much closer.
Not the way Bryant shot, anyway.
He was 0 for 3 in the first half, then made six in a row. He hit three straight in the fourth quarter to blow it open, the crowd chanting “Kobe! Kobe!” before he finally missed on a ridiculously long attempt before calling it a night.
Patty Mills scored 26 points and Ingles had 19 for Australia, which had the misfortune of running into the U.S. in the quarterfinals for the second straight Olympics.