Italians' 3-point shooting nets 45 points

Updated: August 4, 2004, 3:44 PM ET
Associated Press

COLOGNE, Germany -- The U.S. Olympic basketball team quickly shrugged off its stunning exhibition loss to Italy.

"It doesn't hurt at all. It's great preparation," center Tim Duncan said. "If it happened to us in the Olympics, that's different. This doesn't hurt at all."

SportsNation: Still Believe?
On July 27, SportsNation was firmly behind the U.S. team with 78.2 percent believing the team would win the gold medal in Athens.

After the 17-point loss to Italy, that number is down to 42 percent. The percentage of those who feel the U.S. team will not medal has gone up from 6 percent to 24 percent.

Cast your vote now!

The United States was beaten 95-78 Tuesday, just 10 days before its first contest in the Athens Games. It was the most one-sided and embarrassing loss ever by an American team comprising NBA players. The Americans will try to win its fifth straight Olympics gold medal and improve on its 24-0 record since allowing pro players to participate in 1992.

Carmelo Anthony scored a team-high 19 points, and Duncan had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Americans, who trailed from the opening minutes and were blown out in the fourth quarter.

The loss confirmed one of coach Larry Brown's biggest fears, that his team lacks "pure shooters." Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter led the team to a 10-0 mark in Olympic qualifying, but they decided not to go to Athens.

"We're going to have to play good defense every night because we're going to have some off-shooting nights," Brown said before the game.

The Americans had the poor shooting night Brown predicted, sinking just four 3-pointers against Italy's zone defense. The defense played by the United States was even worse than its offense.

The Italians, fifth at the Sydney Olympics, made 15 shots from behind the arc and got 28 points from Giacomo Galanda and 25 from Gianluca Basile.

Basile was 7-of-15 from 3-point range, and Galanda was 5-for-8 as the Italians had an easy time finding players for open shots from the outside .

"We just didn't communicate well on defense," said Allen Iverson, who scored 13 points. "I think we need something like this to understand it's not going to be easy."

Every time the Americans made a run, the Italians responded with a 3-pointer. When Iverson scored to trim the deficit to 56-52, Basile responded with two straight 3-pointers that built the lead back up to 10. European teams are known for having players that can knock down a 3 from the shorter international arc.

With just one week of practice, the Americans didn't resemble a team. Most other countries employ a unit that has played together for years. Everyone on Italy's roster plays in that country's top league.

"We need more time together. These teams play together for years and we have to put it together in a couple of weeks," forward Lamar Odom said. "Our defense wasn't up to par. This was a lesson for us."

The Italians seemed like the easiest of the four opponents the Americans will face on its road trip in preparation for the Olympics. Their next game is Wednesday against Dirk Nowitzki and Germany, which beat Italy 85-77 on Sunday. After that, the United States will play world champion Serbia and Montenegro, and Turkey, which features two NBA players.

Against Germany, the Americans will also face a hostile crowd. The 14,831 mostly German spectators on Tuesday were there to see the Americans pull off some showtime moves and beat the Italians.

LeBron James delivered that late in the third quarter, breaking away on a turnover and throwing in an emphatic dunk. The crowd booed loudly when the basket was negated by a traveling call.

"They're going to be in for a lot of lessons for the next few weeks. It's a young team and it's a different game internationally," Brown said.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press