|Kobe Bryant of the U.S. shoots a three-point basket against Australia during their men's quarterfinal basketball match at the North Greenwich Arena in London during the London 2012 Olympic Games August 8, 2012. Photo by Mike Segar, Reuters.
LONDON - Kobe Bryant, one of the two best known names in the U.S. basketball team, had yet to truly shine at the Olympics, but with an electric spell in Wednesday's quarter-final win over Australia he showed London a flash of his imperious best.
Bryant had the crowd on their feet singing his name with a quick-fire series of four three-point shots in just over a minute that took an already-stretched game beyond the reach of a battling Australian side.
"He got hot, he woke up. He definitely got it going and we all knew it was just a matter of time for him," said U.S. team mate Andre Iguodala.
Last week Bryant spoke about enjoying the Olympic experience, but a series of staid performances for an unbeaten and relatively untroubled U.S. team had ramped up the pressure on the five-time NBA champion of the Los Angeles Lakers to show his best form on the court.
"I was just searching for something to get me going, for something to activate 'the black mamba' as coach calls it," a smiling and laughing Bryant told reporters.
"I just found myself in a pretty good rhythm, found myself with some daylight to shoot the ball and they were going in for me."
U.S. team coach Mike Krzyzewski was clearer about what brought out the best in Bryant, who along with LeBron James is one of his top players: "Australia playing great."
"When you're playing a team who's fought back, and with the way they started the second half ... we needed guys to step forward," Krzyzewski said.
The U.S. team, catapulted by Bryant's streak midway through the fourth period, went on to win 119-86 and book a semi-final contest with Argentina that takes them to within two victories of retaining the title they won in Beijing four years ago. (Editing by Daniel Magnowski)