"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. I’m 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.
Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat) scored with 9:20 left to cut the lead to 24-22 , but 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 ten
consecutive points to end the first half
USA made just 11-of-35 (31.4
percent) shots from the field and one-of-13 from 3-point range in the first
half. They also had 12 turnovers. Puerto Rico was 16-for-29 (55.2 percent) from
the field overall, including 4-of-8 from 3-point.
The USA trailed 65-48 after three
quarters and to cut the lead to eight at 69-61 with 6:11 remaining after Tim
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
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 finished with 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. The Americans outrebounded Puerto Rico 46 to 27, but
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.