Team USA recovers for rout of Brazil
By Chris Bernucca SportsTicker Pro Basketball Editor
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - The slow starts are ending earlier. The furious finishes are starting sooner. And Team USA's Vince Carter has everyone ducking for cover.
Carter added another chapter to his international lore as he keyed a breakneck binge in the first half Thursday night as Team USA harkened back to its days of dominance with a 111-73 rout of the Dominican Republic in the FIBA Tournament of the Americas.
In Sunday's exhibition win over Puerto Rico and Wednesday's defeat of Brazil, Team USA needed the first half to get its game in high gear. The Americans trailed in both games and had to scramble just to inch ahead of Brazil by a basket at halftime.
Against the Dominicans - one of just two teams in this tournament with no players with NBA experience - it was more of the same. Swingman Tracy McGrady missed four straight free throws in the early going and Team USA trailed, 25-20, late in the first quarter.
But the U.S. snapped out of it much sooner this time, reeling off 18 straight points to take total control early in the second period. That's when Carter - who is treating this tournament as an opportunity to restore some of the luster to his recently tarnished game - began his personal three-minute highlight reel.
The high-flying Toronto Raptors swingman soared for a dunk, then made another seconds later for a 42-28 lead. He drilled 3-pointers on consecutive possessions before capping another signature international moment.
Allen Iverson sped down the middle of the court and whipped a behind-the-back pass to Jason Kidd, who lobbed a pass off the backboard. Trailing from the right wing, Carter soared for the carom and hammered it home, making it 52-32 with 3:32 remaining and sending the Roberto Clemente Coliseum crowd into a frenzy.
Although not as awe-inspiring as Carter's dunk in the 2000 Olympics, when he sailed over 7-foot Frenchman Fredric Weis, the play was everything everyone wants this squad to be - an unselfish group that puts on a show.
Carter took a seat after scoring 12 points in less than three minutes. McGrady, Carter's distant cousin, found his range and made a pair of jumpers before jamming home a lob from Iverson that helped Team USA open a 60-36 halftime lead and coach Larry Brown experiment by going deep into his bench.
Before Team USA took the floor, Steve Nash directed Canada to an 89-79 upset of host Puerto Rico in Group A. The All-Star guard of the Dallas Mavericks had 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists as he spoiled the party-like atmosphere at Roberto Clemente Coliseum.
Former St. John's swingman Rowan Barrett had the biggest game of the tournament thus far, exploding for 32 points for Canada (1-0), which began a stretch of four games in four days.
Eddie Casiano made six 3-pointers and scored 24 points for Puerto Rico (1-1).
In Thursday's first game, Argentina got back on track with a 91-60 Group A trouncing of Uruguay. One day after a surprising loss to Mexico, the Argentines (1-1) shot 58 percent (32-of-55), including 10-of-19 from the arc.
Andres Nocioni scored 14 points to lead four players in double figures for Argentina, which rested San Antonio guard Emanuel Ginobili (16 minutes) and Spurs draftee Luis Scola (five). Nicolas Mazzarino scored 13 points for Uruguay (0-2), which was playing 17 hours after Wednesday night's loss to Puerto Rico.
Brazil (1-1) gave the Virgin Islands a rude introduction to the tournament with a 100-74 Group B win. Guilherme Giovannoni scored 18 points, Phoenix Suns rookie guard Leandro Barbosa added 15 and Anderson Varejao - who posterized Jermaine O'Neal on Wednesday - added 14.
Playing without NBA swingman Raja Bell, the Virgin Islands (0-1) committed 30 fouls and 19 turnovers.
The top four teams in each group advance to the second round, where they face the four teams they have not played from the other group. This is where things should get a bit tougher for Team USA as it meets Argentina, Puerto Rico and Canada.
After the second round, the four teams with the best records advance to the semifinals on August 30. The semifinal winners assure themselves of Olympic berths and play for the gold medal.
The semifinal losers play for the bronze medal in the tournament's most important game. The winner gets a berth in the 2004 Olympics, while the loser gets nothing.
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index