Serbia-Montenegro loses another at buzzer
ATHENS, Greece -- A disputed call with 20 seconds left figured prominently in another controversial loss for reigning world champion Serbia-Montenegro.
New Zealand rallied from an 11-point deficit in the final 5 minutes to beat Serbia-Montenegro 90-87 Thursday in a physical game that had the officials attracting as much attention as the loser's suddenly precarious path to the quarterfinals.
Dillon Boucher's driving layup with 20 seconds left brought New Zealand (1-2) within 87-86. As Serbia-Montenegro was inbounding the ball, New Zealand's Mark Dickel wrapped his arms around Milos Vujanic to draw the foul and stop the clock.
Instead, an offensive foul was called on Vujanic, and Sean Marks dunked on the resulting inbounds play to give New Zealand an 88-87 lead.
Vujanic missed a 3-point attempt with 5 seconds left. Dickel made two free throws with 3.7 seconds left, and Dejan Bodiroga's 3-point attempt at the buzzer was short.
All three of Serbia-Montenegro's games have been decided at the buzzer.
Serbia-Montenegro coach Zeljko Obradovic followed officials Jorge Vazquez of Puerto Rico and Phillippe Leemann of Switzerland off the court, waving his finger at them as he talked animatedly.
"The decision with 20 seconds left ... directly affected the game," Obradovic said. "The decision was a gift to the team that won the game.
"Maybe there are some rules I don't know about. That was a very strange decision."
Obradovic caused some controversy after his team's opening loss to Argentina when he stormed out of the postgame news conference complaining about the translator's version of what he said.
Serbia-Montenegro dropped to 1-2, with games left against Spain and China.
"Nothing happened with the world champions," said Dejan Bodiroga, who had 25 points. "It's just that we lost two games by a (shot).
"Now we turn to further games, and we will fight until the end," he said.
Kirk Penney led New Zealand with 15 points.
"It was our Olympic campaign, simple as that," said Sean Marks, who plays for the San Antonio Spurs. "If we lose, we're done."
Puerto Rico, which shocked the basketball world in a rout of the United States in the opening game of the Olympic tournament, had to hold on until the buzzer for an 83-80 victory over Angola.
Daniel Santiago blocked Carlos Almeida's 3-point attempt as time expired to clinch the win for Puerto Rico (2-1), which beat the United States 92-73 on Sunday night. That loss was the first by a U.S. team since NBA players started participating in the Olympics in 1992, and it was just the third ever for the United States in 112 Olympic games.
Angola (0-3) has won just one preliminary round game in its four Olympic appearances and that was a 20-point victory over Spain in its debut in 1992. Its other two wins have been in classification games.
Edmar Victoriano's reverse layup with 2:12 to play brought Angola into a 78-all tie and had the crowd of about 6,000 in the Helliniko Indoor Arena cheering wildly and chanting "An-go-la."
Eddie Casiano hit a 3 with 1:06 left for Puerto Rico, and Almeida brought Angola within 81-80 on a drive with 44 seconds to play.
Carlos Arroyo restored the lead to three points with 23 seconds to go and Angola had two chances to tie -- a 3 by Angelo Victoriano with 6 seconds left, and after a turnover by Puerto Rico, Almeida's final shot.
Elias Ayuso had 17 points for Puerto Rico, while Arroyo and Santiago each added 16.
Antonio de Carvalho led Angola with 14 points.
Miguel Lutonda, Angola's second-leading scorer in the tournament with an average of 11 points, injured his left ankle with 4 minutes left in the third quarter and did not return. He finished with 11 points.
Argentina used its press and passing to negate Yao Ming's size.
Forcing turnover after turnover with its fullcourt press and then moving the ball around quickly on the offensive end, Argentina made sure the 7-foot-5 Yao was never a factor.
Both teams came into the matchup with 1-1 records, and the loss put China into a must-win situation for a chance to reach the quarterfinals.
China committed 15 turnovers and Yao was 1-for-7 from the field as Argentina took a 41-21 halftime lead. Argentina didn't let up as the 6-8 Nocioni, who just signed with the Chicago Bulls, went right at Yao and dunked for Argentina's first points of the second half.
Yao came into the game averaging 25.5 points and 10.5 rebounds. The center for the Houston Rockets finished with 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting against Argentina. China had a total of 23 turnovers and Argentina had a 40-29 rebound advantage.
"Obviously, we knew China's biggest offensive weapon is Yao and they have good perimeter shooters, and we were able to stop Yao," Argentina coach Ruben Magnano said.
Argentina, the runner-up in the 2002 World Championships, finishes pool play against New Zealand and Italy.
China is one of four teams in Group A with a 1-2 record and it finishes against two of the others -- Italy and reigning world champion Serbia-Montenegro. China must win at least one to advance to next week's quarterfinals, something it has done only once in seven previous Olympic appearances.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press