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Bryant's defense locks down Barbosa as U.S. stays perfect at TOA

8/27/2007 - NBA

LAS VEGAS -- After containing Leandro Barbosa, Kobe Bryant
still had time to keep up with LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

James scored 21 points, Bryant added 20 and harassed Barbosa all
over the court, and the United States clinched the top spot in its
group by beating Brazil 113-76 Sunday night in the FIBA Americas
tournament.

Anthony also had 21 for the Americans (4-0), who for the second
straight game pulled away by holding their opponent without a field
goal for more than 6 minutes in the second quarter.

"When you see Kobe Bryant diving for loose balls," USA
Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said, "and you see
LeBron and Carmelo giving it the kind of work that they're putting
into this, that commitment and passion, that's a message."

The Americans improved to 30-0 in Olympic qualifying games and
will open second-round play Monday night against Mexico, the
fourth-place finisher in Group A, in a matchup of former coaching
rivals: Nolan Richardson beat Mike Krzyzewski for the 1994 NCAA
title when Arkansas edged Duke.

Bryant led the defensive effort that held Barbosa to just four
points on 1-of-7 shooting before a Thomas & Mack Center crowd that
included former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian and NBA Hall of Famer
Bill Russell. Injured U.S. star Dwyane Wade watched from the bench
for the second straight day.

"My role here is different here than it is with the Lakers,"
Bryant said. "We have so many talented players and I don't have to
score a lot of points. I just try to do the best I can
defensively."

Barbosa entered averaging a tournament-best 27 points after
scoring 36 Saturday in a 93-89 victory over the U.S. Virgin
Islands. But the Phoenix guard and NBA's top sixth man never got
into this game because of Bryant's early defense, and was on the
bench in foul trouble when the Americans broke open the game late
in the second quarter.

"I knew that he was going to come up and defense me and guard
me like he did and all I was trying to do was get the ball, but I
didn't have many balls in my hand," Barbosa said. "But that's OK.
It's about tomorrow now, let's forget about this."

James, Bryant and Anthony combined for the first 19 U.S. points
in the second half, turning the game into another romp. The
Americans are beating opponents by 48.4 points per game.

Brazil nearly beat the United States last year, losing 90-86 in
an exhibition game ahead of the world championships. But Barbosa
acknowledged that this is a different U.S. team, one that features
nine different players this summer.

And the Brazilians are lacking one of their key players,
Cleveland forward Anderson Varejao, who doesn't have an NBA
contract for next season and opted not to take the risk of playing.

Still, the Brazilians kept it close until ending the first half
without a field goal after Alex Garcia's basket with 6:09
remaining.

Brazil (3-1) settled for second place in Group B and will face
Puerto Rico on Monday. The teams with the four best records after
second-round play advance to the semifinals next Saturday. The
winners of those two games earn spots in Beijing.

Brazil trailed only 37-32 with 5:50 remaining in the half before
Bryant scored the next three points and James followed with a
basket for a 10-point lead. After a Brazil free throw, Bryant and
Michael Redd hit 3-pointers in an 8-0 spurt that pushed the U.S.
advantage to 50-34 with 2:21 to play.

With the game slipping away, Brazil coach Aluisio Ferreira
reinserted Barbosa, but he picked up his third foul with 2:21
remaining in the half after trying to stop Bryant on the break.
James threw in a runner from beyond 30 feet as time expired, giving
the Americans a 57-38 lead.

"Brazil is one of the best international teams and they had a
terrific game plan but our defense in the second and third quarters
was at the highest level it's been in this tournament," Krzyzewski
said.

The Americans hit their first five shots and raced to a 12-1
lead a little more than 2 minutes in. Brazil fought back to get
within four on Tiago Splitter's follow with 29 seconds left, and
the U.S. was only leading 27-21 going into the second.

Splitter, drafted by San Antonio, led Brazil with 13 points.

American reserve Tayshaun Prince left the game in the first half
after spraining his left ankle while battling for a defensive
rebound. Krzyzewski said after the game the Pistons swingman would
probably miss a day or two.