LeBron leads U.S. in final tuneup rout of Korea
SEOUL, South Korea -- A 53-point win over South Korea wrapped up a perfect Asian exhibition tour for a star-studded U.S. team on its way to the world championships.
All the evidence from five exhibition games points to Bruce Bowen being the player most likely to be left off Team USA's final 12-man roster, yet I'm far from 100 percent certain he'll be the odd man out.
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LeBron James scored 23 points Tuesday to lead the Americans to a 116-63 win over South Korea in their final tuneup for the world championships. The U.S. squad went 5-0 in exhibitions leading up to the worlds, which begin Saturday in Japan.
"We were a little sluggish at first and I was able to pick up my energy level and the guys followed," James said. "We got better as the game went on and took care of business."
U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said he was pleased with the progress the team has made since its first exhibition game against Puerto Rico on Aug. 3, a game the Americans won 114-69.
"We're proud of our team," said Krzyzewski. "We had two good games here in Korea and it's exciting the way we've played to get ready."
In other exhibition games leading up to the world championships, Vasilis Spanoulis scored 12 points to help Greece defeat Germany 84-47 in the final of the Stankovic Cup in Kunshan, China. Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki was held to nine points for Germany.
Boris Diaw of the Phoenix Suns scored 15 points to lead France to third place in the Stankovic Cup with an 86-74 victory over Brazil. Suns teammate Leandro Barbosa scored a game-high 29 points for Brazil, but the Brazilians lost Cleveland Cavaliers center Anderson Verejao to a foot injury.
Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets scored the winning basket and had 21 points to lift China past Australia, 63-61, to capture fifth place in the tournament. The Milwaukee Bucks' Andrew Bogut had 20 points for Australia.
Dwyane Wade and Elton Brand scored 16 points each against South Korea, and the United States also got 13 points from Carmelo Anthony. The Americans took control early, led by James. The Cleveland Cavaliers star hit a 3-pointer and then gave the United States a 9-2 lead on a layup. Late in the first period, James' two-handed dunk made it 13-5.
Wade gave the U.S. a 20-point lead midway through the second period when he broke through the Korean defense and finished with a two-handed jam.
James, who had 19 points in the first half, stole the ball at center court and went in all alone for a dunk with 3:49 left in the second period as the U.S. widened its lead to 62-35 at halftime.
After a visit to a U.S. military base Wednesday, the team will head to Sapporo, Japan, for its opening game of the championships against Puerto Rico.
In previous tournaments, the United States was criticized for not playing as a team. James doesn't see that as a problem with this team.
"I didn't play for the team in 2002," James said. "I played on the Olympic team in 2004 and we didn't have the right mind-set. This team has the right mind-set to get the job done."
The U.S. still must cut one of its players before the world championships. The roster was reduced to 13 when Gilbert Arenas of the Washington Wizards strained his groin during practice Monday and was unable to compete for a spot on the 12-player roster.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press