Team USA rebounds to beat Brazil

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2003

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico The first half was flawed. After that, the U.S. team looked fantastic.

Tim Duncan shot 8-for-10 from the field, Elton Brand scored 17 points and the United States dominated the second half to beat Brazil 110-76 on Wednesday night in their opener at the FIBA-Americas Olympic qualifying tournament.

''They didn't surprise us. We had to play our best to win,'' U.S. coach Larry Brown said.

There were some nervous moments for the Americans in the first half as they were sloppy with the ball, failed to defend the 3-point line and fell behind by as many as 10 points. But the U.S. team closed the half with an 11-5 run, then outscored Brazil 31-8 in the third quarter to turn it into a blowout.

''I don't think we were surprised that the first half was so close. We have a lot of respect for the teams we're playing against,'' Brown said. ''This whole tournament is not going to be easy for us, and we recognize that.''

Brazil, the gold medalist at the Pan American Games, was at its best when forward Nene was on the court. But his coach made a questionable move in the first half, reinserting him into the game with three fouls. He quickly picked up his fourth and did not return until late in the third quarter which by then was too late.

''I don't regret it because Nene is essential for the team. He is the main player on the team,'' coach Aluizio Ferreira said through a translator.

Duncan finished with 17 points, Tracy McGrady had 15, Vince Carter 14, Ray Allen 13, Mike Bibby 11 and Allen Iverson 10.

Nene, who said his third and fourth fouls were bad calls, had 17 points to lead Brazil.

Things immediately got off to the bad start for the Americans as McGrady threw away the team's first pass and Duncan drew his first foul just 16 seconds into the game.

Varejao threw down an impressive dunk over Jermaine O'Neal and completed the three-point play to give Brazil a lead it would hold for most of the remainder of the first half.

Renato Finto hit a 3-pointer early in the second quarter to give Brazil its largest lead, 34-24, before the Americans went to full court pressure to mount a comeback.

Nene, who plays for the Denver Nuggets, picked up his third foul with 5:19 left before halftime and came out of the game, but Ferreira took a risk by reinserting him 2 minutes later. Sure enough, Nene picked up his fourth foul with 2:17 left, and the Americans then closed the quarter with an 11-5 run to take a 49-47 halftime lead.

The Americans started to pull away early in the third quarter by pushing the ball upcourt, and a dunk by Duncan making him 6-for-6 from the field off a behind-the-back pass from Iverson gave the U.S. team a 59-51 edge. After another dunk by Duncan, he blocked three consecutive shots on one Brazil possession.

A jumper by Brand with 3.5 seconds left completed an 8-0 run that gave the Americans a 78-55 lead entering the fourth, and a reverse slam by Carter off an offensive rebound by Richard Jefferson made it 92-66 midway through the fourth.

''They didn't really jump on us,'' Brand said of the coaches' halftime talk, ''but they said we really needed to play defense.''

In earlier games, Mexico stunned Argentina the silver medalist at last summer's World Championships with a 91-89 victory behind 20 points from Eduardo Najera of the Dallas Mavericks. Also, the Dominican Republic edged Venezuela 78-76 and Puerto Rico defeated Uruguay 91-78.

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