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US into finals, first in eight years
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The United States slashed down defending champions Argentina to 101-81 Friday, entering the finals of the men's basketball for the first time in eight years at the Beijing Olympic Games.

The U.S. were one victory away to return the top place in the world after they finished with a bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Carmelo Anthony was perfect on the foul line (13-out-of-13) to lead Americans by 21 points while LeBron James adding 15, when seven U.S. players scored at least 10 points.

Luis Scola carried Argentina with 28 points and 11 rebounds and Carlos Delfino chipped in 17 points, eight rebounds, when their top player Manu Ginobili was injured early in the game.

Ginobili stumbled to the sideline with apparent pain on his foot six and a half minutes into the game. He left the bench to the locker room after the first quarter and did not come back.

The U.S. capitalized the loss of Ginobili to roll a 18-0 run to take the driving seat on 21-4, keeping Argentina scoreless in about five and a half minutes before Delfino had a 3-pointer with 1:34 minutes left in the first quarter.

Friday's match was the dullest one in Americans' seven outings here as the defense-oriented Argentines denied them any chance of spectacular dunking.

The U.S. had eight steals, the least in seven matches when they averaged 14.8 steals in the preliminary round.

Argentina's defense did shut down Americans' attacking power for a while when Andres Nucioni blocked Kobe Bryant's dunk on a fastbreak. Argentina scored 11 straight points to close it on 37-29 4:24 minutes left in the second period.

Luis Scola's basket with 47 seconds left in the first half put Argentina back on 46-40, and that was the closest scoreline the defending champions ever had.

Dwight Howard scored nine of his 10 points, capped by a powerful dunk with 6:35 left in the third quarter, to put the U.S. up on 61-44 with a 12-4 run.

Carmelo Anthony buried all four free-throws to make it 67-49 on Nucioni's technical foul midway in that period and the Argentines never recovered from that blow.

The U.S. beat Argentina on the board by 43-32 with 16 offensive rebounds, a key to their victory when they scored only eight points on fast-breaks and forced out only 16 turnovers, both the new lows in the tournament for the Americans.

They will meet Spain, which wiped off Lithuania 91-86, in the finals, while Argentina to vie with Lithuania for the bronze on Sunday, the final day of the Beijing Games.

(Xinhua News Agency August 22, 2008)

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