Exhibition: USA beats Serbia & Montenegro
Related: Box Score (new window, close when done)
It was Yugoslavia (now known as Serbia & Montenegro) who defeated the USA Senior squad and eliminated it from medal contention at the 2002 FIBA World Championship in Indianapolis, Indiana, so it was only fitting that the 2004 USA Senior Team returned the favor, defeating Serbia & Montenegro 78-60 Friday night in Beogradska Arena in Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro. The loss was Serbia's first in its new arena. The Serbs earlier in the week won the FIBA Diamond Ball Tournament with a 3-0 record.
Relying on a 14-0 run to start the second quarter that was fueled by four points each from NBA rookies LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers) and from Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat), the Americans opened up a 32-17 advantage and never allowed the defending World Champions an opportunity to climb back into contention. Going on to post the 76-60 win, the closest Serbia and Montenegro was able to get the rest of the way was 14 points late in the third and fourth quarters.
"We came out and I thought we were a little tight, we missed some shots. But then we started to defend and pass-pass-pass, and play the right way," said head coach Larry Brown. "We still turned it over, we still didn't get into a lot of things, but we played hard and we tried to do what was right and I think that was a significant step."
Missing seven of its first eight shots, the U.S. got off to sluggish start as Serbia moved out to 7-2 and 9-4 leads to the delight of its partisan home crowd. But the U.S., getting points from four different players, went on a 10-0 tear to move ahead 14-9 with 3:02 remaining in the first quarter.
Owning a 20-17 lead after one quarter of action, the USA's defense held Serbia scoreless for the first 5:46 of the second stanza and without a field goal until the 3:26 mark when Vlado Scepanovic scored to make the score 36-21.
Carrying a 42-26 lead to the locker room at halftime, the USA pretty much iced the contest after outscoring Serbia 12-3 over the third quarter's first 4:20 to take full control 54-32. Although Serbia and Montenegro went on a 10-2 run to cut the deficit to 56-42 with 3:20 to play in the third quarter, Carlos Boozer (Utah Jazz) scored four the USA's last six points in the third period to help the Americans up their advantage to 62-45 after three quarters of action.
The USA lead in the fourth quarter hoovered between 21 and 14 points as the U.S. went on to earn the 78-60 victory.
"It was a very good game. We've been getting better every game and it was just a good game all around for us," said Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs). "We needed to do this. We've been getting better and better every exhibition game we have had. We need to practice against this stuff. We need to work against the zone and find ways to execute against it."
In a balanced scoring effort, Duncan led the USA with 16 points, and added four rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots,and was awarded the USA MVP Award from the game organizers. James added 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting, Shawn Marion (Phoenix Suns) compiled 10 points and a game best eight rebounds, while Allen Iverson (Philadelphia 76ers) tallied nine points and a game high six assists and Lamar Odom (Los Angeles Lakers) also finished with nine points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals.
As a team, the USA shot 50.0 percent (30-60 FGs) from the floor overall and edged Serbia on the boards by a 32-28 margin. The Americans were also a perfect 14-for-14 from the foul line. The USA defense limited Serbia to 35.0 percent (21-60 FGs) shooting from the floor, including just 1-for-14 from 3-point.
Having now played four of its six exhibition games, the United States will return to the court Sunday afternoon in a game against Turkey in Istanbul, Turkey. Sunday's game will be televised live nationally by ABC at 2 p.m. (EDT). The USA will close out its exhibition tour on Aug. 10 in a rematch against Turkey that will be broadcast by ESPN.
The USA senior men opened their training on July 26 at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Fla., and are pending the 20 days leading up to the start of the 2004 Athens Olympic basketball competition training in Jacksonville; Cologne; Belgrade, Serbia & Montenegro; and Istanbul, Turkey, and will play a total of six exhibition games.