Monday, Aug. 18, 2008 | 6:32 a.m.
Finishing group play undefeated in the Olympics was an afterthought Monday for the U.S. national hoops team against Germany.
With its usual combination of tight defense, fastbreaks and dunks, Team USA belted Germany, 106-57. It defeated its four previous Group B foes by an average score of 102-74 and plays Australia on Wednesday in a quarterfinal game at Wukesong Indoor Stadium.
Argentina plays Greece in the quarters, and that victor will likely play the U.S. in a semifinal. On the other side of the knockout bracket, Croatia plays Spain in a quarterfinal and China plays Lithuania.
"We have that chip on our shoulder," LeBron James, who scored 18 points, told NBC. "We always want to get better. We don't want to take a step backward. We have a lot to prove. A lot of people don't believe we're the best in the world."
With super swimmer Michael Phelps in the arena, Monday's game was never in doubt. The U.S. scored 20 of the first 23 points and led 31-12 after one quarter. It walked off the court, with a 53-29 advantage, at halftime as the Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash" blared from the speakers.
Team USA's jumpin' Jacks led by 30 points twice late in the second quarter before the Germans put together an 8-0 run, so the halftime score didn't look so lopsided.
Even so, German center Chris Kaman -- the Los Angeles Clippers center who received a German passport last month, courtesy of the great-grandparents he never knew -- executed what must have been the ugliest shot of the Beijing Games during that run by air-balling a 1-footer.
But Tayshaun Prince, the lanky ace defender for the Detroit Pistons, might have come close to that when he hit the left side of the backboard on a 3-point attempt in the third quarter.
The U.S. finished Group B action at 5-0, the only team at the Beijing Games to end the preliminary round without a defeat. Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski asked Phelps to address the squad after the game, and Phelps showed off one of his eight gold medals to Kobe Bryant and the rest of his teammates.
As if the Americans needed more incentive as the knockout stage begins. However, Australia tested them, only losing by 11 points, in an Olympic tune-up in Shanghai.
""Every game is a chance to see how we perform and how we play as a team," said James. "(The Aussies) believe they can beat us ... it's going to be a good one."