Australian guard Matt Dellavedova (L) ch

USA starts pretty blah, Kobe and LeBron help them run away from Aussies late


There are certain boxers and MMA fighters that nobody looks fighting good against. Even the fighters with all the style get sucked into an ugly grappling contest, nobody looks pretty in the ring/octagon against these guys.

That is Australian basketball.

For three quarters against Team USA the Aussies were physical, they mucked up the game, they made sure it wasn’t pretty and they hit a few threes. Australia played well and exactly how they wanted. They kept it close. But behind a triple-double from LeBron James (11 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists) and some hot shooting from Kobe Bryant, the Americans pulled away in the fourth quarter to win 119-86.

Next up is a third game in three weeks against a good Argentina side. The Olympic semifinal is at 4 p.m. Eastern Friday. Win that and the Americans will play for the gold on Sunday.

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves because Argentina likes to grind out the game like Australia, the South Americans just do it better and have more skill.

And the Aussies gave the USA some trouble. Just like they did four years ago in the Beijing Olympics — Australia plays physical and can be tough to play against. There was not a great flow to the game but the USA was up 28-21 after one and you kept waiting for the big run in the second. But it never came, it was more ugly, more grinding. The USA still kept playing a little better and was up 14 at the break.

Then Australia opened second half on an 11-0 run, bringing it down to 56-53 lead for the USA. The USA needed a spark.

They got a one from the guy getting shredded on twitter. Kobe Bryant was 0-5 shooting with three turnovers by a few minutes into the third quarter, and after guarding Aussie star Patty Mills in the first half he was switched off him (Chris Paul took over). He was having a bad half. Anyone who has seen Kobe struggle over the years knows what is next — he is going to shoot his way out of it.

He did. And it worked. Kobe hit back-to-back threes in the third — one catch-and-shoot, then made a steal and knocked down a transition three — and that sparked a little run by the USA that got it back up to 14. In the fourth Kobe couldn’t miss from three as he racked up 20 second half points.

In the fourth, the USA picked up their defensive pressure and Australia just did not have the depth of talent to hang with it. The USA was back to putting on a show with Kobe threes (six total in the second half), LeBron passes and even an impressive James Harden dunk. They ran away and hid.

Deron Williams had 18 and Carmelo Anthony 17 for the United States. Mills (the former St. Mary star who played for the Blazers and Spurs) led the Aussies with 26.

It was a win and in the end that’s all that matters for the USA. But now they will have to beat a good Argentinian team who has played them very well for five of the eight quarters when the two teams have met in recent weeks. They have Manu Ginobili playing very well and good guys around him like Carlos Delfino and Luis Scola. The USA will have to play better.

In the two meetings thus far Argentina has not been able to keep up with the runs of the USA and that has been the difference. But for the USA to do it a third time they will need a better game, a more consistent defensive effort than we saw against Australia.

Watch Kobe Bryant’s entire retirement-announcement press conference (video)

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Kobe Bryant reflected, told stories and showed his emotions.

For nearly 25 minutes, the Lakers star talked about his pending retirement. It was pretty cool.

Report: Wizards signing Ryan Hollins

Blake Griffin, Ryan Hollins
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Nene hurt his calf. Drew Gooden is banged up. Martell Webster is out for the season.

Those are three players the Wizards expected to play power forward this season.

So, Washington – which has lost four straight – will bring in another big man: Ryan Hollins.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Wizards have a full roster of 15 players. They don’t qualify for a hardship exemption, which a team gets if four players have missed three straight games and will continue to be out. Only Webster and Alan Anderson definitely fit that bill. Gooden, who has missed five straight, might. But it’s unclear both how many of those absences were due to injury and when he’ll return.

So, Washington will have to waive someone to sign Hollins now. It’ll probably be Webster, whose $5,845,250 2016-17 salary is just $2.5 million guaranteed. If he’s out for the year and the Wizards plan to drop him by the summer to clear cap space, why not just do it now?

Hollins is more center than power forward and doesn’t appear to fit well with Marcin Gortat. But at this point, Washington just needs big bodies. Hollins – a nine-year veteran who plays decent interior defense, lacks offensive skill and rebounds poorly for his 7-foot frame – is at least that.

Dwight Howard crushes Kristaps Porzingis with dunk (video)

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Sometimes – as Kristaps Porzingis sees against Dwight Howard – it’s more flattering just to play James Harden-level defense.