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Pierce's Shooting Lifts U.S.

Basketball: Forward scores 27 points in 106-82 second-round win over Russia at World Championships.

September 03, 2002|From Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Paul Pierce put on such a show, it made Reggie Miller's debut merely a footnote.

Pierce had another of his scoring blitzes Monday night, cementing his status as the U.S. team's best offensive player. He made seven consecutive shots and scored 20 of his 27 points in the third quarter to lead the United States to a 106-82 victory over Russia in a second-round game.

Pierce has led the Americans in scoring in all four of their games at the World Championships, including three in the preliminary round.

"He's one of those scorers who scores a big number of points in a very short period of time," U.S. Coach George Karl said. "It's kind of fun to watch. I told him after the game that I like shows, and that was a pretty good show."

Miller, sidelined for the first three games by an ankle sprain, provided a thrill after checking into the tournament. He made his first appearance with 2:13 left in the second quarter, coming in to a nice ovation after the U.S. opened a 50-38 lead.

Miller committed a turnover the first time he touched the ball, throwing a bad pass, but he quickly redeemed himself. After a Russian missed a layup on a two-on-one fast break, Miller grabbed the rebound and then found himself open at the three-point line. He made the shot just before the buzzer to give the Americans a 54-44 lead.

"If Reggie doesn't make those three points, maybe the game is more interesting than it was," Russia Coach Stanislav Eremine said.

The U.S. hadn't looked all that special in its previous two games at the World Championships, with Germany keeping it close for three quarters and China opening a big early lead.

But this one was much more to the Americans' liking and Pierce was the player who turned it into a rout.

Pierce had 10 of the first 12 points of the second half for the U.S. and scored consecutive three-point baskets later in the quarter for an 80-59 lead. He followed a tip by Ben Wallace with another three-point basket to put the U.S. ahead, 85-61.

"I just tried to give us some energy. I always believe the most important times of the game are the end of the half and the start of the second half," Pierce said.

His streak of seven consecutive baskets ended with 48 seconds left in the third quarter when he had an airball from three-point range, and he reacted with an embarrassed smile.

Andre Miller scored 18 points for the U.S., which plays New Zealand today and Argentina on Wednesday to complete the second round.

Zakhar Pachoutine had 16 points to lead Russia, which was without its only NBA player, Andrei Kirilenko, who sat out with a sore left ankle. Kirilenko said he aggravated the injury at practice Sunday and he could be sidelined for the rest of the tournament.

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