A nasty, bad-tempered joust with Argentina's basketball team woke up the sleeping giants from the US on Monday, spurring them to a 126-97 victory that earned a top-seeded berth in the quarter-finals.
Players from both sides were knocked down in a closely-fought first half and they often glowered at each other as the contest turned into a rout for the Americans who had narrowly beaten Lithuania in their previous game.
"Tonight's game was so much fun," US point guard Chris Paul told reporters. "I give Argentina a lot of credit. "Those guys pushed us, they made us compete. I loved it. When it gets a little chippy here and there, it gets you excited," he said after the players frequently collided going for rebounds.
The muscular LeBron James threw an arm out at one point to sweep experienced Argentine Manu Ginobili off his feet.
After going to intermission locked in a 60-59 struggle, Argentina were buried under a flurry of three-pointers from Kevin Durant.
Durant, who made 8-of-10 three-pointers in the game, nailed four from beyond the arc in a third-quarter stretch that took the US lead from 12 points to 24. The quarter ended with more physical combat as Carmelo Anthony hit the floor doubled up in pain after making a three-pointer to send the Americans into the fourth session with a 102-76 advantage.
"He got hit in the groin. That's why he buckled. He wasn't celebrating," said coach Mike Krzyzewski.