Kevin Durant shot the US men’s team out of trouble, and right into the top seed in its group.
Durant scored 17 of his 28 points during the Americans’ explosive 42-point third quarter, turning a 1-point game into a blowout that sent the US soaring into the quarterfinals with a 126-97 victory over Argentina Monday night in London.
The NBA scoring champion matched the Argentines’ point total in the period, going 5 of 6 from 3-point range, the last one from well beyond 25 feet. The Americans didn’t stop shooting and scoring until Carmelo Anthony made a 3-pointer in the final second of the quarter while taking what he and the US bench right behind him felt was a cheap shot from Argentina’s Facundo Campazzo, setting off an exchange of words and technical fouls.
‘‘You kind of want to send a message a little bit.,’’ Kobe Bryant said. ‘‘This was the second game in a row that this team has played us close. We didn’t want to give them confidence.’’
The Americans (5-0) will play Australia (3-2) in a quarterfinal game Wednesday.
LeBron James added 18 points, getting the Americans’ first 7 of the third quarter before Durant took over. Chris Paul finished with 17.
Two nights after surviving their first real test in a 99-94 victory over Lithuania, it seemed the Americans might be headed for another tight finish. Argentina shot 56 percent in the first half and the US led just 60-59.
Minutes later, it was effectively over.
Durant’s 3-pointer after James’s surge gave the US 10 points in 2:10 of the second half, and he made back-to-back treys midway through the period to make it 85-68. He nailed consecutive 3s again later in the quarter, the latter from beyond the hash line.
‘‘I really didn’t pay attention to where the line was,’’ Durant said. ‘‘When I caught that ball I was going to shoot it.’’
Manu Ginobili scored 16 points for Argentina (3-2), which would have won Group A via tiebreaker if it had blown out the US. Instead, it finished third and will face Brazil in the quarterfinals.
Durant finished 8 of 10 from 3-point range and the Americans were 20 of 39.
James, who scored 9 of his 20 points in the final four minutes Saturday, now has 225 points as a US Olympian, pulling within 6 of Charles Barkley for third place on the US career list.
The teams would meet in the semifinals for the third straight Olympics if both win Wednesday.
Brazil 88, Spain 82 — Leandro Barbosa scored 10 of his 23 points in the final six minutes, rallying Brazil past the Spaniards. Brazil (4-1), which played without center Nene (foot) and trailed by 10 early in the fourth quarter, finished second in Group B.
Pau Gasol scored 25 points and his brother, Marc, added 20 for Spain (3-2), which may have actually gained something by losing. Spain is assured of not playing the US until the gold-medal game — if both continue to advance.
Australia 82, Russia 80 — Patty Mills’s 3-pointer with time expiring granted Australia a date with the Americans. Russia (4-1) had already clinched the top spot in Group B. Andrei Kirilenko scored 13 points, but sat out the final minute with a cut above the left eye.
France 79, Nigeria 73 — Nicolas Batum scored 23 points to lead France (4-1). Spurs teammates Boris Diaw (10 points) and Tony Parker (seven assists) also contributed. Nigeria’s Chamberlain Oguchi went 8 for 14 from deep to finish with 35.
Great Britain 90, China 58 — Luol Deng scored just 6 points in 24 minutes, but the hosts coasted. Yi Jianlian scored 10 for China.
Lithuania 76, Tunisia 63 — Darius Songalia’s 13 points led the victors.