LeBron James put a record finish on the U.S. team's dominance in the desert.
James scored 31 points — a team record for an Olympic-qualifying tournament game — and the United States beat Argentina 118-81 Sunday to win the FIBA Americas championship.
James, who plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers, made 11 of 15 shots, including 8 of 11 three-point attempts. James surpassed Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson, who both play for Denver and shared the previous record of 28 points in an Olympic-qualifying game.
"We came here for one reason and that was to get the gold medal," James said.
Dwight Howard of Orlando made all seven of his shots and scored 20 points for the United States, which went 10-0 in a span of 12 days and averaged 116.7 points.
The United States and Argentina secured berths in next year's Beijing Olympics with semifinal victories Saturday.
James finished the tournament shooting 76 percent from the field.
The gold-medal game was close for six minutes before the United States blew it open with an 18-0 run. The U.S. team scored the final 15 points of the first quarter, and Chauncey Billups of the Detroit Pistons opened the second quarter with a three-pointer for a 38-14 lead.
At one point in the second, the United States scored five consecutive baskets on dunks — three by Howard and two by James. When Howard dunked with 4:58 remaining in the half to push the lead to 51-21, the United States had 16 assists on 18 field goals, the AP reports.
James was most impressive, making shots from everywhere on the floor, including consistently knocking down open three pointers, a facet of his game that has been largely criticized. He finished his ten games by shooting 76 percent from the field and 8-of-11 from beyond the three-point arc.
You don't like to single guys out, but LeBron's performance today was one of the best ones in an international game that a U.S. player has had," U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "He was big time today."
His 31 points were the most ever by an American in an Olympic qualifying event.
Still, James was most thankful for the chance to play with a group of talented individuals that sacrificed for the greater good, AHN Media Corp reports.
"I learned that players can throw their personal accolades out the window," James said. "We came here for one reason, and that was to get the gold medal."
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