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OLYMPIC QUALIFYING

U.S. Beats Puerto Rico; Rematch in Semifinals

August 29, 2003|From Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — 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 U.S. won, 91-65, Thursday night in its final game of the second round at the Tournament of the Americas.

"Lot of attempts, but that was my first one ever," Brand said. "It's not instinctive, and you have to be instinctive to go up there and hit it when it can still go in."

The teams will play again Saturday night in the semifinals, with a berth in the 2004 Athens Olympics at stake.

The loser will get another chance at qualifying for the Olympics on Sunday in the third-place game against the loser of the Canada-Argentina semifinal. The winner will play for the championship.

Tim Duncan led the U.S. 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 saying his sprained back would sideline him for thetournament. 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, this crowd was much more subdued -- especially in the second half when the U.S. turned it into a blowout.

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

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, and Brand's non-goaltending play kept the score that way.

After the U.S. went ahead by 12 points, Puerto Rico got back within nine at halftime, but the U.S. quickly broke the game open in the third quarter, getting a three-pointer from Iverson for a 60-40 lead with 5:39 left.

Earlier, Argentina beat the Dominican Republic, 102-72.

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