U.S. brings back good 'ol days

The Baltimore Sun

BEIJING - Seem like old times?

Of course, for anyone born since 1992, when the Dream Team awed an overmatched world, the sight of a U.S. basketball team flattening everything in its path, as it just did to Spain, another supposed contender, is a novelty, but it used to be like this.

No, really.

After buttering up undefeated Spain for two days, or convincing themselves the Spaniards were a threat, the U.S. routed them, 119-82, last night in Wukesong Arena.

The U.S. is 4-0, leading Pool B. The only other undefeated team is Lithuania, which is 4-0 in Pool A.

Of course, the U.S. blew out the Lithuanians by 36 points two weeks ago in Macao, so they might not be that close, either.

Despite the skepticism that comes with seven losses in the past three world competitions, it is becoming clear this is an old-fashioned, dominant U.S. team.

"When you commit to something, the hard work that you put in, you want the prize at the end, and they've identified the prize," said Jay Triano, the Toronto Raptors assistant who coached the U.S. select team against the big team in practices in Las Vegas.

"I'm not a betting guy, but I would put down everything on this team winning."

Proving they can do more than defend, dunk and hurl bricks from the three-point line, the U.S. actually found the range last night, making seven of its first 10 threes and finishing 12-for-25 overall.

LeBron James scored 18 points for the U.S., and Dwayne Wade and Carmelo Anthony (Towson Catholic) added 16 each.

The U.S. players also defended. This time their focus was Pau Gasol, the Los Angeles Lakers center who had been burning up the tournament.

Gasol came into the game averaging 18 points, shooting 69 percent and having outscored Yao Ming 29-11 Tuesday, posterizing him several times while making 13 of 17 shots.

Last night, he didn't even get a shot off in the first quarter and had three turnovers.

"We shot 45 percent from the three, and we shot close to 80 [percent] from the free-throw line, so that's a plus if we can do that," James said. "... When we can shoot the ball from the outside like that and shoot free throws well, it's going to be tough to beat us."

The U.S. players double-teamed Gasol as if he were Shaquille O'Neal in his prime. Just for good measure, they ran the offense through Gasol's man, usually Dwight Howard, at the other end. By the end of the first quarter, the U.S. was up by 13 points.

Yet to be seen is whether the rest of this tournament is any more competitive than those last three quarters.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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