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InsideHoops [USA Basketball]

USA beats Puerto Rico in exhibition game




/ Aug 2, 2004

Related: Box Score (new window, close when done)

Behind 16 points from both Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets) and Carlos Boozer (Utah Jazz), the USA (1-0) led from start to finish after sprinting out early against Puerto Rico (0-1) and rolled on to a 96-71 win Saturday afternoon in front of a sold out Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena crowd of 14,034 and an ESPN national audience.

The win, the USA's first of a six game exhibition tour, improved the record of USA senior teams comprised of NBA players to 19-0 in exhibition games.

"I think we improved a lot after the last two scrimmages we had this week (versus Puerto Rico and New Zealand)," said USA head coach Larry Brown. "We played with effort. We got better in areas that we needed to improve on but we’ve got a long way to go.

"We turned the ball over a lot and our execution is not great yet. But, this is only the fifth day. If we make progress like we did today, I think we’ll be very competitive."

The United States' solid win over Puerto Rico was even more impressive in light of being without the services of Allen Iverson (Philadelphia 76ers), LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Amare Stoudemire (Phoenix Suns) who did not play after violating a team rule.

Shawn Marion (Phoenix Suns) and Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs) each scored four points, the U.S. sprinted to a 12-1 lead after Puerto Rico missed its first six shots. The USA's lead ballooned to 17, 23-6, with 2:10 left in the opening quarter after Boozer drained a hook in the lane. But Puerto Rico chipped away and at the end of the first quarter the USA was ahead 26-15.

Puerto Rico played evenly with the US in the second quarter and with 1:35 remaining before halftime had reduced the deficit to five, 39-34, after Carlos Arroyo converted off a fastbreak. Emeka Okafor (Charlotte Bobcats) and Duncan scored the first half'‘s final points and at halftime the Americans were up 43-34.

Leading 45-39 early in the third quarter, the USA scored eight consecutive points in what would be a 19-5 run over the next 5:07 to see them take full control, 64-44. Going on to lead by as many as 27 points, the Americans rolled along for the 96-71 victory.

All nine available USA players scored. While Anthony And Boozer headed the USA offense, Duncan finished with a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Marion narrowly missed his own double-double and finished with 12 points and nine boards. Richard Jefferson (New Jersey Nets) tallied 11 points, Okafor finished scoring seven points, and guards Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat) and Stephon Marbury (New York Knicks) compiled seven points and eight assists, and six points and six assists, respectively.

The U.S. shooting sizzled, as the Americans nailed 36-of-59 (61.0%) shot attempts, while defensively they held Puerto Rico to 39.4 percent (26-66 FGs) shooting. Coach Brown's guys also dominated the glass, out rebounding Puerto Rico 43-17. The US assisted on 23 of their 36 baskets, however, the team also committed 20 turnovers.

"The more we can get pressure on the ball, and get some turnovers, the easier we’re going to get out on the break and have layups all day," stated Marion, who played on the USA 2001 Goodwill Games and 2002 World Championship teams. "That’s the thing, you’ve got to play defense. That’s what coach has been emphasizing since we’ve been here. You’ve got to play defense to get some easy offense. We’ve got to challenge ourselves."

The USA senior men opened their training on July 26 at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Florida, and are spending the 20 days leading up to the start of the 2004 Athens Olympic basketball competition training in Jacksonville; Cologne, Germany; Belgrade, Serbia & Montenegro; and Istanbul, Turkey, and will play a total of six exhibition games.

USA Basketball's plans call for ESPN to broadcast live both USA games from Cologne, Germany, the Tuesday, Aug. 3 (2 p.m. EDT) game against Italy, and the Wednesday, Aug. 4 (2 p.m. EDT) contest versus the German National Team. The USA-Serbia & Montenegro game on Friday, Aug. 6 in Belgrade, will be shown tape delayed by ESPN at 7 p.m. (EDT), and the USA Senior National Team Tour concludes in Istanbul, Turkey, and ABC will televise live nationally on Sunday, Aug. 8 (2 p.m. EDT) the USA-Turkey game, while ESPN will show the Aug. 10 (1 p.m. EDT), USA-Turkey game live.


The 2004 Olympic men's basketball competition takes place Aug. 15-28 in Athens. The United States men, the three-time defending Olympic champions, will compete in Group B with Angola, Australia, Greece, Lithuania and Puerto Rico. The other men's preliminary round group, Group A, consists of Argentina, China, Italy, New Zealand, Serbia & Montenegro and Spain.

The USA men open preliminary play in the 2004 Olympics on Sunday, Aug. 15 against Puerto Rico (8 p.m., all times are local time), then will play host Greece on Tuesday, Aug. 17 (10:15 p.m.), Australia on Thursday, Aug. 19 (2:30 p.m.), Lithuania on Saturday, Aug. 21 (8 p.m.), and the US concludes its preliminary play facing Angola on Monday, Aug. 23 (2:30 p.m.). Quarterfinals play is slated for Thursday, Aug. 26, with semifinals action being held on Friday, Aug. 27 and the final games to determine first through eight places are slated to be played on Saturday, Aug. 28.

Brown, who has won a gold medal as a player at the 1964 Olympics and as an assistant coach at the 2000 Olympics, and who most recently led the Detroit Pistons to the 2004 NBA title, is head coach of the 2004 USA Basketball Men's Senior National Team and will draw on his recent international head coaching experiences that saw him lead USA teams in 1999 and 2003 to 10-0 records and Olympic qualifying berths. Assisting Brown on the USA bench is San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, who owns a pair of NBA championships (1999 and 2003), and a pair of very successful collegiate head mentors in Clemson University's (S.C.) Oliver Purnell and University of North Carolina's Roy Williams.

The U.S. men, gold medalists in 12 of the 14 Olympics in which it has participated, own a remarkable 109-2 win-loss record in Olympic play for a .982 winning percentage. USA Olympic teams featuring NBA players are 24-0 since making their first appearance at the 1992 Olympics and the US has won the last three Olympic titles when NBA players have participated (1992, 1996, 2000).

A record almost as impressive as the USA's success in the Olympics is the one enjoyed by USA Basketball Men's Senior National teams comprised of NBA players. Since first fielding in 1992 a team of legendary NBA stars, USA Basketball Men's Senior National Teams have competed in eight international basketball competitions and compiled a stellar 69-3 record. Between 1992 and six games into the 2002 World Championship the USA seniors won a remarkable 58 straight games. The win streak came to a halt at the 2002 World Championship when the US fell 87-80 to Argentina (Sept. 4, 2002). The US seniors currently own a 11-game win streak after finishing 10-0 to win gold at the 2003 FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

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