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
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.