Team USA plays Puerto Rico in FIBA Tournament
By Chris Bernucca SportsTicker Pro Basketball Editor
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Team USA is biding its time until Saturday.
Already assured of a semifinal berth in the FIBA Tournament of the Americas, unbeaten Team USA will face Puerto Rico on Thursday night, one night after it methodically defeated Mexico, 96-69.
In a lackluster effort befitting a team waiting for its next meaningful game, unbeaten Team USA trailed for most of the first half before pulling away.
The United States (7-0) clearly lacked the flair it displayed over the first six games, which was understandable following Tuesday's emotional 94-86 victory over international rival Argentina.
"We don't take any of these games lightly," Team USA coach Larry Brown said. "We use every game as a learning experience because we have such limited experience in international competition."
Argentina (5-3) clinched the second seed by rolling to a 102-72 victory over the Dominican Republic (2-6), which already had been eliminated from medal contention.
After Wednesday's stunning 97-92 loss to Venezuela, the Argentines could have missed the semifinals with a loss Thursday. But guard Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs made sure that never was a possibility, scoring 11 of his 18 points in the first quarter to help build a 25-14 lead.
The onslaught continued in the second quarter as Leandro Palladino drilled a 3-pointer that made it 49-27 with 1:15 to go, blowing on his fingers as he backpedaled on defense. In opening a 49-31 halftime advantage, Argentina forced 16 turnovers while committing just four.
Spurs draftee Luis Scola also scored 18 points for Argentina, which shot 57 percent (37-of-65) from the field and eclipsed 100 points for the first time in the tournament.
In Saturday's semifinals, Argentina will face Canada. The teams met in the first round, with Argentina holding on for a 94-90 victory as Canada's Steve Nash and Rowan Barrett missed driving layups on consecutive possessions in the final two minutes.
On Wednesday, the U.S. opened a 49-40 halftime lead and a 70-51 advantage after three quarters. But Team USA was far from sharp in its worst showing of the tournament.
"We are trying to build our team," Duncan said. "People are finding their way."
In Thursday's opener, semifinalist Canada (4-3) completed a stretch of eight games in eight days with a 93-86 loss to Venezuela (3-4), which temporarily remained alive in a bid for the semifinals.
Playing Nash, the All-Star guard of Dallas Mavericks for less than 20 minutes, the Canadians trailed, 54-35, at halftime before somehow finding the energy to rally, forging a 79-79 tie on two free throws by Prosper Karangwa with 6.6 seconds left. However, Venezuela scored the first seven points of the extra session and never looked back.
Victor Diaz scored 23 points and Diego Guevara added 20 for Venezuela, which has won three games in the second round. Karangwa and Connecticut's Denham Brown scored 20 points apiece for Canada, which is assured of not facing the U.S. until the final.
Brazil (2-5) completed a winless second round with a 102-92 loss to Mexico (3-4), which cannot get into the semifinals. Tournament leading scorer Omar Quintero had 23 points for Mexico, which played without Mavericks forward Eduardo Najera.
Puerto Rico (5-2) clinched a spot in the semifinals on Wednesday by rallying for a 72-70 victory over Brazil.
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index