U.S. stays undefeated

Posted: Friday, August 29, 2003

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) Daniel Santiago's hook shot was bouncing softly around the rim when Elton Brand reached up and knocked it off. It would have been goaltending in the NBA, but not under international rules.

The play kept Puerto Rico from pulling within two points midway through the second quarter, and it never got that close again as the United States won 91-65 Thursday night in its final game of the second round at the Tournament of the Americas.

The teams will play again Saturday night in the semifinals, with a berth in the Athens Olympics at stake.

The loser will get another chance at qualifying for Athens on Sunday in the third-place game against either Canada or Argentina.

Tim Duncan led the U.S. team with 16 points as the Americans improved to 8-0 in this tournament.

Tracy McGrady made a surprise return to the U.S. starting lineup two days after he said his sprained back would prevent him from playing in the remainder of the tournament. He finished with six points in 17 minutes.

Unlike four years ago when the U.S.-Puerto Rico game featured a raucous crowd that waved political banners and reached the upper limits of the decibel meter, this crowd was much more subdued especially in the second half when the U.S. team turned it into a blowout.

Duncan had 10 of the U.S. team's first 18 points, but the Americans couldn't shake Puerto Rico until the second quarter. A dunk by Jose ''Piculin'' Ortiz and a fast-break layup by Sharif Fajardo prompted U.S. coach Larry Brown to call a timeout with his team leading just 28-27, and the Americans came out of the break playing with a greater sense of urgency.

A baseline drive and dunk by Ray Allen was followed by a difficult off-balance jumper from the lane by Allen Iverson, making it 34-30. Brand's non-goaltending play kept the score that way, and Jason Kidd's first 3-pointer of the tournament (he had been 0-for-7) upped the lead to seven.

Full-court pressure by Kidd forced an 8-second backcourt violation, and a three-point play by Brand gave the Americans their first 10-point lead, 40-30.

Brand then stripped the ball from Carlos Arroyo in the backcourt on the ensuing inbounds play, and Kidd picked up the loose ball and fed Brand for a dunk and a 12-point lead.

Puerto Rico got back within nine at halftime, but the U.S. team quickly broke the game open in the third quarter, getting a 3-pointer from the left corner by Iverson for a 60-40 lead with 5:39 left.

The United States led 64-48 entering the fourth quarter, and the crowd steadily filed out over the final 10 minutes as Puerto Rico never threatened.

Earlier, the U.S. coaching staff was watching intently from the fourth row of the stands as Argentina defeated the Dominican Republic 102-72 in the night's first game.

Manu Ginobili shot 7-for-8 in the first half for 16 of his 18 points before Argentina pulled away steadily in the third quarter and cruised through the fourth.

Luis Scola also scored 18 points and Leandro Palladino had 12 for Argentina, which came up with 16 steals and shot 71 percent from 2-point range.

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