TORONTO -- One of the many knocks against Dream Team II through the first three games of the World Championships has been its outside shooting. The closer international three-point line was supposed to be a breeze, yet the Dream Teamers had made just 38 percent of their long-range shots.
That changed against Australia last night. The Dream Team hit 14 of 22 three-pointers (63.6 percent) -- 11 in the second half -- in a 130-74 win last night before a near-capacity crowd of 14,243 at Maple Leaf Gardens.
The Dream Team needed this laugher, especially after falling behind by as many as seven points early against an Australian team that earlier in the tournament had a hard time against Korea. The 56-point margin of victory was the team's largest of the tournament, surpassing the 55-point rout of China in the second game.
Reggie Miller led all scorers with 31 points. He had just one field goal in the first half, but ended the game hitting nine of 10 shots -- including five of six three-pointers.
"It was like a Spike Lee flashback," said Miller, referring to his 25-point fourth quarter against the New York Knicks in the playoffs. "I think the day off [Monday] really helped our team. It gave us some energy."
Andrew Gaze, the former Seton Hall star who played briefly with the Washington Bullets last season, led Australia with 23 points.
"Obviously they're a very talented team," Gaze said. "They exploited us in the second half."
Exploited them to the tune of 68 points over the final 20 minutes, breaking open a fairly close game in which the Dream Team had a 62-48 halftime lead. Coach Don Nelson used a small lineup to pull away, as Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille O'Neal combined to play just 21 minutes.
"We wanted to go small to give them the same problems they gave us early in the game," Nelson said. "It got us into the open floor, and we were able to break the game open."
The Dream Team big men had dominated play through the first three games of the tournament. O'Neal had shot 77 percent from the field, Derrick Coleman 75 percent and Mourning 74 percent.
But last night it was the guards who starred. Mark Price scored 17 points, hitting five of six three-pointers, and Dan Majerle added 14 points (three of six three-pointers).
"This just proved that we can go to a smaller lineup and be devastating," Nelson said.
The Dream Team shot 70.8 percent for the game, compared to Australia's 32.9 percent.
"I think we got a little overanxious in the second half," Australian coach Barry Barnes said. "Certainly, we didn't shoot the ball very well."
The Australians did have their moments early, running effectively against the Dream Team and at one point building a seven-point lead, 17-10, against the heavily favored Americans.
The run further tarnished the image of Dream Team II, which already was seen by many as not the equal of Dream Team I.
"Our start certainly threw them off-guard," Gaze said. "We got a little bit of a margin, and it was exciting."
That start came against a Dream Team starting lineup of Coleman, Price, Steve Smith, Larry Johnson and Joe Dumars.
Nelson corrected that problem quickly, replacing Coleman with O'Neal with 13:32 left in the half. The Dream Team trailed 24-19 when O'Neal entered the game. The Dream Team immediately ran off eight straight points -- a layup by O'Neal and two three-pointers by Price -- to take the lead for the first time, 27-24.
From there it was just a matter of too much to overcome the rest of the half for Australia. Shawn Kemp followed O'Neal off the bench. Then Miller and Kevin Johnson.
It was a bit too much for the Australians, who also were surprised by the amount of trash-talking the Dream Teamers were dishing out once they got the big lead.
"They certainly had a lot to say," Gaze said. "I guess it's an aspect of the NBA game that they carry. Probably we were taken a little off-guard by the way they were talking to us."
The United States will play its second playoff-round game tonight against Puerto Rico, a 101-85 loser to Russia last night. But Puerto Rico, 2-2 in the tournament, will not enter the game in awe of the Americans.
"We're coming to compete, we're not coming just to get our pictures taken," said Carlos Morales, the Puerto Rico coach. "In order to be able to compete, you can't be in awe of them. You have to be aware you have an opportunity."
Morales added that it's only a matter of time that the rest of the world begins to defeat the NBA players in international competition.
"The gap between NBA basketball and international basketball is beginning to close before a lot of people, including me, thought," Morales said. "In 10, 12 years the rest of the world will catch up with NBA basketball."