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OLYMPIC QUALIFYING

U.S. Slams Argentina for Gold Medal, 106-73

September 01, 2003|From Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Let there be no doubt: The United States is again better than Argentina in basketball. Much, much better.

Turning the game into a dunking exhibition with a brilliant first half, the U.S. humiliated Argentina, 106-73, Sunday night in the gold-medal game of the Tournament of the Americas.

In the third-place game, Jose "Piculin" Ortiz scored 21 points to lead Puerto Rico over Canada, 79-66, which earned the team a berth at the Athens Olympics next year.

For the U.S., alley-oop dunks were followed by even better ones that sent the "ooh" and "ah" meter off the charts in the strongest all-around performance by an American team since the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

"I think that game right there is really going to leave a taste in somebody's mouth," Tracy McGrady said.

A much more competitive game was expected after Argentina, which defeated the U.S. last summer in the world championships, performed brilliantly in its semifinal victory over Canada on Saturday night to qualify for the Olympics. Argentina also competed well against the U.S. in the second round, losing, 94-86.

One sequence over the first 5 1/2 minutes of the second quarter Sunday went like this: a dunk by Elton Brand, a high-arcing alley-oop pass from Mike Bibby to McGrady for a dunk, an alley-oop dunk by Vince Carter off a pass from Bibby, a basket for Argentina, a fast-break dunk by Carter, a steal and layup by Bibby, and an alley-oop dunk by Jermaine O'Neal off a pass from Kidd.

When it ended, the score was 53-19.

Game over -- except for the formality of the final 24 1/2 minutes.

"The U.S. played their best game. They surprised us during the whole game," Argentina center Fabricio Oberto said. "The intensity was so much that we couldn't go up to that level. But we're very happy because our first objective was to classify for Athens."

The Americans opened the second half by scoring their first three baskets on dunks -- two of them by Tim Duncan in his most dominant performance of the tournament with 23 points and 14 rebounds.

Duncan nearly outrebounded Argentina by himself in the first half, grabbing 12 to Argentina's 13. He had 19 points at the half as the U.S. led, 60-27.

"It's expected to win, but it's a relief to come out here and do it the right way," Duncan said. "Was it surprising? A little bit. We didn't expect to take it to them like that, but at the same time we knew we were capable of doing it."

It was 83-47 after three quarters, and Richard Jefferson got the U.S. to 100 points on a free throw with 90 seconds left.

"We wanted to come out and be extremely sharp, give the world something to think about for a year," O'Neal said.

This performance should make the U.S. the strong favorite at Athens, although not a prohibitive one given the strength of several European teams.

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