BEIJING Even the gold-favorite United States men's basketball team can be upstaged at times when keeping company with guys in the fast line.
With newfound friend in Michael Phelps both in the stands for the game and visiting the locker room afterward, the U.S. hoopsters who do a little bit of freestyle themselves on the court crushed exiting Germany 106-57 Monday night.
In postgame interviews, the American players wanted to talk less about the game and more about the U.S. swimming sensation and his Olympic-record eight gold medals.
"I got a chance to meet Michael Phelps, and that's why I have the swimming goggles on," said center Dwight Howard, who led all scorers with 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds. "He was in the locker room before I came out, and I told him I was going to swim the 100-meter medley next year."
U.S. forward Carlos Boozer said he and Phelps joked about making the latter an honorary member of the basketball team and help him gain a ninth gold.
"We told him that we are going to take care of it, and we'll try to get him a copy of it."
As if Phelps needs another one.
The U.S. wrapped up Group B preliminary play in perfect fashion, with the Germany win giving the Americans a 5-0 record and a top berth in Wednesday's quarterfinals. On tap for that round: the Andrew Bogut-led Australia team that has won three consecutive games.
"We know we are just six days away from holding a gold medal," said Boozer, "and our excitement levels are on the rise."
LeBron James added 18 points and Kobe Bryant 13 as the U.S. had five players in double figures and shot 55 percent from the floor while allowing Germany to shoot just 30 percent.
Boozer contributed six points and as many boards, while Deron Williams finished with nine points, a team-high five assists, four rebounds and a steal.Dirk Nowitzki led Germany with 14 points and eight rebounds.
In other games:
ARGENTINA 91, RUSSIA 79: Andrei Kirilenko and Russia had high expectations for the Olympics after winning the 2007 European Championships title. Instead, the Russians were sent packing from Beijing with just one victory against Iran, a team that hadn't played Olympic basketball in 60 years.
Defending champion Argentina (4-1) used a 37-point performance from Luis Scola 12-of-16 from the floor and 13-of-17 from the line to down Russia (1-4). Scola added eight rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal during his full 40-minute court time.
Kirilenko paced Russia with 23 points on 8-of-19 FG shooting and nine rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block.
"We wanted to make the quarterfinals," Kirilenko said. "We wanted to win the whole thing. Last year when we won the EuroBasket, it's because we hustled. We don't play at the level of the teams we played. We couldn't compete for 40 minutes at that level."
AUSTRALIA 106, LITHUANIA 75: Behind Andrew Bogut's 23 points scored in 16 minutes, streaking Australia (3-2) posted its third straight victory while handing Group A winner Lithuania (4-1) its first Games defeat.
Bogut connected on 10-of-12 shots from the floor, including all three 3-pointers, and was one of a half-dozen Aussies in double-digit points.
Ksistof Larvinovic paced Lithuania (4-1) with 14 points.
SPAIN 98, ANGOLA 50: Pau Gasol dominated inside, with his 13-of-14 shooting from the floor and 31 game-high points pacing Spain (4-1) over winless Angola (0-5).
Juan Carlos Navarro added 12 minutes for Spain, which turned a 25-20 deficit midway in the second quarter into a 10-point halftime lead at 40-30, thanks to a late 17-0 run.
GREECE 91, CHINA 77: In a game Greece (3-2) led throughout, Ionnis Bourousis and Vasileios Spanoulis shared game-best scoring honors with 19 points each, with Bourousis added nine rebounds and Spanoulis five assists.
China (2-3) finished with four in double-figure points, led by Yao Ming's 16.
CROATIA 91, IRAN 57: Marin Rozic and Marko Tomas each scored 16 points to lead Croatia (3-2), which erased an early 6-2 lead with a 17-0 run.Mohammadsamad Nikkhah finished with an team-high 25 points for Iran (0-5).
Men's basketball medal round
The following pairings are set for Wednesday's quarterfinals at Beijing's Olympic Basketball Gymnasium. Winners advance to the semifinals, while losers are eliminated:
• Spain vs. Croatia
• Lithuania vs. China
• United States vs. Australia
• Argentina vs. Greece
And Friday's semifinal match-ups:
• Spain-Croatia winner vs. Lithuania-China winner
• USA-Australia winner vs. Argentina-Greece winner
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