BEIJING — Four down, four to go. The U.S. men’s Olympic team is halfway back to the top of the basketball world.
Not even the world champions — on paper, anyway — could give the Americans a game.
Unleashing a lethal 3-point barrage for the first time in Beijing, the U.S. team turned the marquee matchup of the preliminary round into another romp, beating Spain 119-82 Saturday night to clinch the top seed in their group.
LeBron James scored 18 points for the United States (4-0), which hit seven of its first 10 attempts from behind the arc after making only 29 percent in its first three games. The U.S. finished at 48 percent (12-of-25), an almost unfair total for a team with unmatched athleticism.
“We shot 45 percent from the 3 and we shot close to 80 from the free-throw line, so that’s a plus if we can do that,” James said. “We know we’re going to defend; we know we’re going to get fastbreak points; but when we can shoot the ball from the outside like that and shoot free throws well, it’s going to be tough to beat us.”
Every U.S. player scored — even Jason Kidd for the first time in Beijing — as the Americans turned the matchup of unbeatens into their easiest victory yet. Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony each scored 16 points.
The Americans will face the No. 4 seed from Group A, either Australia or Croatia, in the quarterfinals. They also wouldn’t have to face Lithuania, the other remaining unbeaten and top seed from the other side, or Spain again until the gold-medal game.
Felipe Reyes scored 19 points for Spain (3-1), the 2006 world champion. The Spanish have won eight of their last 10 Olympic games, but the two losses were against the U.S. They hope to get another crack next Sunday on the final day of the Beijing Games.
Track and field
In the men’s 20-kilometer walk, Russia’s Valeriy Borchin won but collapsed soon after and was taken away on a stretcher. After medical attention for dehydration, he was back on his feet.
Valerie Vili, the reigning world outdoor and indoor champion, won the women’s shot put, giving New Zealand its first gold medal in track and field since 1976.
Nataliia Dobrynska won the gold medal in women’s heptathlon, leading a gold-silver finish for Ukraine. American Hyleas Fountain got the bronze.
The way world records have been falling at the Water Cube, Janet Evans’ 19-year-old standard in the women’s 800-meter freestyle — swimming’s oldest world record — was doomed to go down. And Britain’s Rebecca Adlington dropped it in winning her second gold medal; she also won the 400.
Cesar Cielo won the 50-meter freestyle, earning Brazil its first-ever swimming gold medal.
“I’m so overcome with emotion,” said Cielo, a nine-time NCAA champion at Auburn and a bronze winner in the 100 free. “I will continue to struggle and work hard. Hopefully this is the start of many good things to come.”
Zimbabwe’s Kirsty Coventry defended her Olympic title in the women’s 200-meter backstroke in a world-record time. Her old roommate at Auburn, American Margaret Hoelzer, got the silver.
“I’m definitely pleased that if I couldn’t do it, she was the one,” Hoelzer said.
“It’s joy and relief,” said Coventry, who had been second in three previous races at these Games. “I touched that wall and said, ‘Thank goodness.”’
The U.S. beat China in three sets, but the bigger news was coach Hugh McCutcheon rejoining the team a week after a knife attack that killed his father-in-law and wounded his mother-in-law, Barbara Bachman, who arrived Friday in her home state of Minnesota for treatment at the Mayo Clinic.
After the final point, Riley Salmon embraced his coach. McCutheon joined in a team high-five on the court.
“I wouldn’t have come back if I wasn’t ready to come back,” McCutcheon said. “It’s what I do — get out on the sidelines and get the boys fired up.”
The Americans went 3-0 without their coach, clinching a spot in the quarterfinals before he returned.
The American juggernaut crushed another opponent, with Jessica Mendoza hitting her third home run in two days and Jennie Finch pitching five shutout innings for a 7-0 victory over Taiwan. The U.S. has outscored its foes 36-1, has allowed just four hits in 29 innings and has now won 19 straight Olympic games.
“USA is too strong to defeat,” Taiwan coach Chang Chia-Hsing said.
Japan beat China 3-0, Australia beat the Netherlands 8-0 and Venezuela, playing in its first Olympics, stunned Canada 2-0.
Roger Federer is going home with a gold medal. The Williams sisters could, too.
Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka took the men’s doubles title, while Venus and Serena Williams clinched at least a silver medal in doubles.
The Williamses beat Ukraine’s Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko to advance to the gold-medal match against Spain’s Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual. The Williams sisters improved to 9-0 lifetime in Olympic doubles. They won the gold medal at Sydney in 2000 but didn’t play doubles in 2004 because Serena was hurt.
Federer and Wawrinka beat Sweden’s Simon Aspelin and Thomas Johansson 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-3. Federer closed it out with a service winner, threw up his arms and began hopping, then hugged his partner. This should take help salve finally losing his No. 1 status to Rafael Nadal on Monday.
Russia will win women’s singles with countrymates Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva squaring off. Dementieva beat another Russian, Vera Zvonareva, and Safina knocked out China’s Li Na.
American twins Bob and Mike Bryan, who have won all four Grand Slam championships, earned the bronze in men’s doubles. Novak Djokovic beat American James Blake for bronze in men’s singles.
It was another one-run game for the Americans, although this time they wound up on top — after erasing a four-run deficit.
Brian Barden homered and had a tying double, then Terry Tiffee doubled in the go-ahead run with two outs in the seventh inning in a 5-4 victory over Canada.
Barden played in place of injured second baseman Jayson Nix a day after Nix fouled a ball off his left eye and needed micro surgery that will keep him out the rest of the Olympics.
The Netherlands beat China 6-4; South Korea beat Japan 5-3.
Americans Shawn Estrada and Luis Yanez lost, leaving only two U.S. fighters in the tournament.
Yanez tied his match against Mongolia’s Serdamba Purevdorj after three rounds but couldn’t pull it out. Estrada lost to James Degale, the hard-punching Brit known as “Chunky.”
Russian Matvey Korobov lost his first fight in five years, going down in a middleweight bout against Bakhtiyar Artayev of Kazakhstan, the welterweight winner in Athens.
The U.S. trio of Emily Cross, Erinn Smart and Hannah Thompson settled for silver in team foil, losing the final match to Russia 28-11. It’s the first ever for Americans in women’s foil and the first for the U.S. in all of foil since 1960.
“I don’t think we even expected this to turn out as it did,” Smart said.
Two U.S. men’s teams remain on course for a showdown in the final.
Reigning world champions and heavy gold-medal favorites Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers overcame mental mistakes, mis-hits and an 0-6 deficit in the first-to-15 final set to beat a Swiss pair. Later, Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal had a much easier time getting past a Spain team.
American Michelle Guerette took silver in women’s single sculls, finishing behind Bulgaria’s Rumyana Neykova. Norway’s Olaf Tufte won his second straight men’s single sculls title.
Australia’s Drew Ginn and Duncan Free won men’s pair. Ginn won in Athens, too, but with a different partner. The Romanio duo of Georgeta Andrunache and Viorica Susanu won the women’s pair, bringing their combined career Olympic gold medal haul to a whopping nine. Andrunache has five and Susanu four from the pair and other events with different partners.
Twin sisters Georgina and Caroline Evers-Swindell won women’s double sculls, defending their Athens triumph by 0.01. Australia’s David Crawshay and Scott Brennan of Australia won the men’s double sculls.
Britain continued its dominance in men’s four rowing, winning gold for a third straight time.
American teenager Taylor Phinney won’t be adding to his family’s medal collection just yet. The son of 1984 medalists Connie Carpenter-Phinney and Davis Phinney failed to qualify for the medal round in the individual pursuit, losing in a round-of-eight matchup. Britain’s Bradley Wiggins won the event for his second straight gold medal.
Two-time world champion Sarah Hammer failed to advance to the medal round in women’s pursuit, and fellow American Giddeon Massie failed to advance in keirin, which was won by Britain’s Chris Hoy.
With Hoy winning and countryman Ross Edgar taking silver, the British already have eight cycling medals, four of them gold.
Joan Llaneras of Spain won the men’s points race, adding that gold to the one he claimed in the event at Sydney in 2000 and the silver won in Athens four years ago.
Do you believe in ... the U.S. men’s water polo team?
After raising doubt with a loss to Serbia, the U.S. showed strong defense in knocking off world No. 1 Croatia 7-5. The Croats came in having won three games by a total of 15 goals.
“They’ve got to know now that if they play like that, they can win this thing,” U.S. coach Terry Schroeder said.
The Americans must knock off Germany to earn a spot in the quarterfinals.