Wednesday, August 18, 2004
U.S. men's basketball team bounces back to beat Greece
The Associated Press
ATHENS - Tim Duncan had fouled out, Allen Iverson was playing with a broken thumb, and Greece had just passed the ball inside with a chance to pull within two points with 18 seconds left.
Lamar Odom defended the play perfectly, holding his hand steady and high and getting a piece of Dimitris Pipanikoulaou's layup attempt. Odom, playing despite severe dehydration, rebounded the miss and made two free throws to lock up the U.S. team's 77-71 victory Tuesday night in its second game of the Olympics.
In a much closer contest than expected, the Americans bounced back from their embarrassing opening loss to Puerto Rico and avoided dropping to 0-2, which would have matched their loss total from the previous 68 years at the Summer Games.
"We wanted to play this one and get that out of our heads," Duncan said.
The big plays down the stretch came from Odom and Carlos Boozer after Duncan fouled out and Iverson cooled off following a strong start. The Americans didn't have a great game, but that didn't matter much to them.
They needed a win and they got one.
The game was a spectacle in many ways, from U.S. coach Larry Brown angrily gesturing at the referees to the raucous Greek fans taunting the Americans with chants of "Puerto Rico," singing soccer fight songs and waving blue and white flags.
Close games for the Americans were rare in previous Olympics, but now it appears to be something the Americans should get used to.
Struggling again from the outside against another team playing a tightly packed zone defense, the U.S. team shot 4-for-21 from 3-point range, committed 19 turnovers, missed 13 free throws and failed to show the ability to pull away - even against a mediocre opponent.
"Believe it or not, I think we'll make an outside shot someday," said coach Larry Brown, who again expressed anger at his players for failing to accept the different roles he needs them to play.
Iverson scored 17 points, 13 of them in the first half, and Duncan had 13 of his 14 points in a third quarter in which he picked up three fouls, setting the stage for a tight fourth quarter.
The Americans led 64-61 when Duncan returned with 5:46 left, and 67-63 when he fouled out about two minutes later on a questionable loose-ball foul call that left him staring in disbelief and Brown pointing in anger at the official who called it.
Odom and Stephon Marbury scored inside to give the Americans some breathing room, though a drive by Antonis Fotsis made it a four-point game with 1:10 left.
"At some points we really did feel we could win the game," Greece guard Theodoros Papaloukas said.
Boozer then came up with the Americans' biggest field goal of the night, rebounding Shawn Marion's missed 3-pointer from the corner and banking it in for a 74-68 lead.
A 3-pointer by Greece made it 75-71, and Boozer missed a pair of free throws to give Greece a chance to get within two.
Odom, however, wouldn't let it happen.
"I just tried to stay down, keep my body in front of him and make him shoot the ball over me," said Odom, who was up all night with a stomach virus and needed a 5 a.m. visit from his doctor because of dehydration. "I was able to deflect it a little bit, and that was a big play for our team."
A turnover by Greece after Odom's free throws with 15.5 seconds left finally quieted the crowd and ended the suspense.
"That was the loudest arena I've ever been in," LeBron James said. "That was electrifying."
Iverson scored nine of the Americans' 18 points in the first quarter, but Greece kept it close by collapsing two defenders on Duncan to keep him from attempting even a single shot.
James had three fast-break dunks in the first five minutes of the second quarter as part of a 10-2 run that put the Americans ahead 29-19. James added a short bank shot on another fast break to increase the lead to 12, but Brown removed him for Iverson moments later, and Greece scored the next six points to trail just 37-31 at the half.
Duncan did not attempt a field goal until 80 seconds into the third quarter, and he picked up his second and third fouls in the first 21/2 minutes of the second half as Greece came back and took a 40-39 lead.
Brown was visibly irritated after Marbury missed everything on a long 3-point attempt, though he was nowhere near as angry as Duncan was when a referee whistled him for his fourth foul on what appeared to be a clean block near the end of the third.
Greece scored the final five points of the third quarter and trailed only 57-53 entering the fourth, then had a run of eight unanswered points to pull to 62-61 with 6:20 left.
"We kept our composure when they made their run," forward Shawn Marion said, "and when Tim was in foul trouble we still did what we had to do to win."
Joanne Peters' 12-yard header in the 82nd minute gave Australia a 1-1 tie with the United States.
The Americans already had clinched a spot in the quarterfinals with wins over Greece and Brazil, and the tie assured them first place in their group. Their top seed guarantees they will stay in Thessaloniki for their next game against Japan on Friday.
Australia qualified for the quarterfinals with the tie, although it would have advanced anyway because of Brazil's win over Greece.
World Cup runner-up Sweden, facing first-round elimination from the Olympics, scored two goals in four minutes against Nigeria in Volos and earned a place in the quarterfinals.
Germany beat Mexico in Athens to top its group.
Cristiane scored three as the Brazilians overwhelmed Greece in Patras.
Lori Harrigan allowed only a first-inning bunt single and Crystl Bustos homered as the United States posted its fourth straight shutout of the games, 4-0 against China.
Harrigan struck out eight, Lovieanne Jung had two RBI and Leah O'Brien-Amico drove in a run as the Americans ran their winning streak to 74 games and their international record against China to 10-1. The United States has outscored its opponents 24-0 in the preliminary round of the tournament.
For the first time in a century, the United States won a gold medal in Olympic fencing, and it added a bronze for good measure.
Mariel Zagunis beat Tan Xue of China 15-9 in the sabre final, and American Sada Jacobson was third, beating Catalina Gheorghitoaia of Romania 15-7.
The United States had never won a medal in women's fencing. The last American medal in the sport was in Los Angeles in 1984, when Peter Westbrook won the bronze in men's saber.
The world's top two tennis players found themselves struggling against low-ranked opponents in the second round of the Olympics - No. 1 Roger Federer flopped, and No. 2 Andy Roddick flourished.
Federer was beaten 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 by 18-year-old Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic on Court 1. Roddick saved three match points and overcame 2000 silver medalist Tommy Haas of Germany 6-4, 3-6, 9-7 before a raucous crowd at the main stadium.
Venus Williams beat Maja Matevzic of Slovenia 6-0, 6-0 earlier - the first shutout for a man or woman since tennis returned to the Olympics as a medal sport in 1988.
Two other major champions lost: Feliciano Lopez of Spain eliminated No. 9 Marat Safin 7-6 (4), 6-3, while Mardy Fish of the United States came back to upset No. 5 Juan Carlos Ferrero 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4.
The U.S. men bounced back from their opening loss with a 26-24, 25-20, 25-18 victory against the Netherlands.
Opposite hitter Clay Stanley led an all-around effort with 21 points, and the Americans ended a nine-match Olympic losing streak with very few errors, strong defense and excellent serving.
Wolf Wigo scored four goals as the United States rallied for a 9-6 win over Kazakhstan.
The Americans improved to 2-0, including a last-second 7-6 win over Croatia in their opener.
Sergey Drozdov scored three goals, twice giving Kazakhstan the lead in the first period and then adding a third as the game wound down.
The Americans led 5-4 at halftime, with Wigo scoring twice in the second period. He finished it off by scoring with 1:26 to play.
In other matches, Francesco Postiglione scored three goals as Italy rebounded from an opening loss to Spain.
The Australians led twice in the first two periods and were tied 3-all at the break, but Italy scored three consecutive goals in the third period and took control.
Germany led 9-0 at halftime and added two goals in the third period before Egypt scored.
Serbia-Montenegro edged Sydney 2000 silver medalist Russia, and Greece upset 1996 Olympic champion Spain.
Tamas Kasas and Peter Biros scored three goals apiece for Hungary.
Americans Misty May and Kerri Walsh beat Dutch duo Marrit Leenstra and Rebekka Kadijk 21-11, 21-13.
All four Brazilian teams stayed unbeaten and clinched berths in the medal round.
In the men's draw, Norwegians Bjorn Maaseide and Iver Horrem beat Americans Daxton Holdren and Stein Metzger.
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