Olympics: Puerto Rico destroys USA
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The men's basketball competition at the 28th Summer Olympic Games are now officially a wide open competition after the USA (0-1) was handed a stunning 92-73 loss by Puerto Rico (1-0) Sunday night in in opening preliminary round play at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Puerto Rico took full advantage of the USA's 3-of-17 shooting in the second quarter to outscore the Americans 28-to-7 and take a commanding 49-27 lead to the locker room at halftime. It proved to be to big of a hole for the U.S. to dig itself out of. The U.S. men, who lost for just the third time in 112 Olympic games, the last time coming 26 games ago in the 1988 semifinals to the USSR, will return to action Aug. 17 against host Greece.
"I'd like to congratulate Puerto Rico. They played as a team. They were well prepared, their coaching was incredible. They played so much harder than we did, so much better as a team. The result is no surprise because when you do that, that usually happens," USA mentor Larry Brown said.
"From our perspective the only thing we can do is to find out what we're made of. This is a great opportunity for a group of guys to get together and figure out what it means to truly be a team. Im anxious to see if we'll be able to do that," Brown added.
The U.S. led only briefly, 9-7 and 11-10 with 3:57 to play in the opening stanza, and after one quarter Puerto Rico held onto a narrow 21-20 lead.
The disastrous second quarter saw guard Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat) score with 9:20 left to make the score 24-22 in favor of Puerto Rico. Getting points from four different players, Puerto Rico went on an 11-0 run over the next 2:08 to move ahead 35-22.
USA center Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs) stopped the run with a hoop at 6:18 and after he scored inside with 3:32 left before half the Americans were down 39-27. The U.S. did not score again in the quarter as Puerto Rico reeled off 10 consecutive points to grab a sizable 49-27 lead at half.
The stat sheet at halftime showed the USA making just 11-of-35 (31.4 percent) shots from the field, 1-of-13 from 3-point, while also turning the ball over 12 times. Puerto Rico meanwhile was 16-for-29 (55.2 percent) from the field overall, including 4-of-8 from 3-point.
The USA offense found its groove in the third quarter, but the Americans were unable to untrack Puerto Rico. Trailing 65-48 after three quarters had been completed, the U.S. made a real run at Puerto Rico in the fourth and managed to cut the lead to eight. But Puerto Rico ultimately came up with an answer for each U.S. rally effort.
Outscoring Puerto Rico 13-4 over the first 3:49 of the final quarter, the gap was closed to 69-61 with 6:11 remaining after Duncan made a pair of free throws.
But Puerto Rico and Utah Jazz guard Carlos Arroyo, with the shot clock running down, banked in a 3-pointer with 5:56 to play. "That was a lucky shot. I wasn't trying o get a bank shot there, but it went in and that was a very important basket for us," said Arroyo of the 3-pointer.
Lamar Odom (Los Angeles Lakers) scored at the other end to keep the U.S. within nine, 72-63, but Rolando Hourruitiner dropped another 3-pointer in with 5:13 to go to push the lead back out to 75-63. Allen Iverson (Philadelphia 76ers) made his only 3-pointer on the night to cut the gap to 75-66, but Arroyo completed a three-point play to up the advantage to 78-66. Richard Jefferson (New Jersey Nets) made one of two free throws to keep the USA within 11, 79-68, with 2:42 to play, but Arroyo scored at 2:22 to lead Puerto Rico on a game-sealing 9-0 run.
Duncan turned in an inspired effort, accounting for 15 points, 16 rebounds (11 offensive), five steals, four assists and two blocked shots in 36 minutes. Iverson added 15 points, Odom, who shot 6-of-7 on the evening, added 13 points, and Wade finished with 10 points.
Arroyo led Puerto Rico with 24 points (9-16 FGs) and seven assists, while Eddie Casiano finished with 18 points after sinking 4-of-4 from 3-point, and Larry Ayuso ended with 15 points.
The U.S. shot 26-for-75 overall and was 3-for-24 from 3-point. Outrebounding Puerto Rico 46 to 27, the Americans finished with 22 turnovers.
In Sunday's other opening day games, in Group B, Lithuania (1-0) held off Angola (0-1) 78- 73, while host Greece (1-0) posted a 76-54 win over Australia (0-1). In Group A action, Italy (1-0) narrowly upended New Zealand (0-1) 71-69, Spain (1-0) handled China (0-1) 83-58, and in the day's most exciting contest, Argentina (1-0) secured an
83-82 win over Serbia & Montenegro (0-1), but only after San Antonio Spurs guard Emanuel Ginobili scored as time expired.
The USA men continue their preliminary play in the 2004 Olympics on Tuesday, Aug. 17 facing host Greece at 10:15 p.m. (all times listed are Athens local times), Australia on Thursday, Aug. 19 (2:30 p.m.), Lithuania on Saturday, Aug. 21 (8 p.m.), and the U.S. 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.
The 2004 Olympic men's basketball competition is being held Aug. 15-28 in Athens. The United States men, the three-time defending Olympic champions.
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, now own a remarkable 109-3 win-loss record in Olympic play for a .973 winning percentage. USA Olympic teams featuring NBA players are 24-1 since making their first appearance at the 1992 Olympics and the U.S. has won the last three Olympic titles when NBA players have participated (1992, 1996, and 2000).