Australia took bronze in the women's basketball tournament as they held off Russia 83-74 to take a medal home from a fifth straight Olympic Games.

The Opals, winners of silver in the previous three Games and bronze back in 1996, pulled ahead early in the second quarter and then held off a Russian rally down the stretch to keep their medal streak alive.

They had lost their semi-final 86-73 to the United States, having suffered an upset to France in the group stages to miss out on their usual top seed and an easier ride to the final.

Australia broke the game open early in the second quarter with a 7-0 run that made it 26-20 on a three-pointer from veteran guard Kristi Harrower, who was playing in her final game for her country.

The lead reached double figures when Liz Cambage went to the line to split her free throws and make it 38-28 in the final seconds of the first half.

Becky Hammon drove to the basket to reduce the arrears for Russia before the break.

But Russia, winners of bronze in the previous two Olympics, could do nothing to halt the slide in the second half with the Opals continuing to pull away.

Lauren Jackson, who became the highest scorer in Olympic women's basketball history earlier in this tournament, scored seven points in the third quarter alone to help them pull further clear.

When Harrower drove to the basket and was fouled by Hammon, she completed a three-point play to give Australia their biggest lead to that point, 56-39, with two minutes left in the period.

Russia trailed 57-43 at the start of the final period but did their best to hack away at the lead as Hammon took over the game.

After they fell 59-46, she scored 11 of Russia's next 13 points but they were still down by nine, 72-61, when Irina Osipova made a short jump-shot with four minutes left in the game.

But Anna Petrakova kept Russia alive with back-to-back three-pointers cutting the gap to 74-67 with two and a half minutes to go.

She hit a pair of free throws to make it a five-point game with 80 seconds left.

Jackson's drive padded Australia's lead and when Petrakova went to the line again, she could only split her free throws this time. Harrower dropped a pair for Australia to give them an 80-72 advantage with 49 seconds left.

Petrakova missed a lay-up and Harrower went to the line to add two more points to Australia's lead, putting the game out of reach for Russia.

Jackson led Australia with 25 points and 11 rebounds while Harrower had 21 points and Suzy Batkovic 17.

Hammon finished with 19 points for Russia while Petrakova and Evgeniya Belyakova added 10 apiece.