James scores U.S. record 31 points, leads Americans over Argentina 118-81 for FIBA title

By: BRIAN MAHONEY, AP Basketball Writer
By: BRIAN MAHONEY, AP Basketball Writer

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- LeBron James put a record finish on the Americans' dominance in the desert.

James scored a team-record 31 points, and the United States beat Argentina 118-81 on Sunday to win the FIBA Americas championship.

Dwight Howard made all seven of his shots and scored 20 points, and Carmelo Anthony added 16 points for the Americans, who were never challenged while winning 10 games in 12 days and will head to Beijing next summer as one of the gold medal favorites.

The Americans averaged 116.7 points in the tournament.

The game was largely meaningless, because both teams had already clinched spots in the Beijing field by winning semifinal games Saturday. But the Americans didn't let up, remaining perfect in four Olympic qualifers, including 7-0 against Argentina.

James finished the tournament shooting 76 percent from the field -- his percentage actually dropped from 76.5 after he made 11 of 15 shots. He was 8-of-11 from 3-point range and also led the tournament in that category, hitting 62 percent.

The game was close for 6 minutes before the United States blew it open with an 18-0 run. The Americans scored the final 15 points of the first quarter, then Chauncey Billups opened the second with a 3-pointer for a 38-14 lead.

At one point in the second, the Americans scored five consecutive baskets on dunks -- three by Howard and two by James, with each having one set up by Kobe Bryant, who had a quiet scoring night but had eight assists. When Howard dunked with 4:58 remaining to push the lead to 51-21, the United States had 16 assists on 18 field goals.

The Americans led 59-34 at halftime after shooting 57 percent. They averaged 59.7 points in the first half during the tournament, and their closest lead at the break was 14 points.

James then hit four 3-pointers in the third on his way to passing Anthony and Allen Iverson, who had both scored 28 points in an Olympic qualifying game.

Luis Scola had 23 points for Argentina (8-2), which lost twice to the Americans. He led a team lacking its normal firepower to a spot in the Olympics, and now turns his attention to making his NBA debut next month for the Houston Rockets.

Without Manu Ginobili, Fabricio Oberto, Andres Nocioni and Walter Herrmann, the defending Olympic champions didn't have nearly enough to keep up with the Americans here. The United States won 91-76 on Thursday in a second-round game that was never close after the opening minutes.

Puerto Rico beat Brazil 111-107 earlier Sunday in the third-place game.


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