USA puts Australia down under 40-point rout
SAITAMA, Japan -- Look out, world.
The United States routed Australia 113-73 Sunday, sending an unmistakable message to the FIBA World Championship. This isn't the team that proved an embarrassment in recent international competitions.
"We wanted to make a statement coming into the round of 16," said forward Chris Bosh, who grabbed a game-high nine rebounds.
Media from all over the globe are covering the World Championship, and many of them got their initial first-hand look Sunday at the team in red, white and blue. With only a few exceptions, writes Chris Sheridan, they're expecting Team USA to win the gold medal. Yes, even the Spaniards and Argentines.
To read all of Sheridan's column, click here.
But the Americans made it look almost too easy, turning a tight game into a laugher by outscoring the Australians 32-6 in the second quarter.
Now the U.S. can look forward to its quarterfinal match-up Wednesday night against Germany, another team with a star NBA center and a mostly anonymous supporting cast. Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas is third in tournament scoring, averaging 24.5 points.
Given the way the U.S. is playing, it might be more fair to make them face Bogut and Nowitzki together.
"I think our biggest opponent is ourselves right now," Johnson said. "We've just got to keep our intensity up."
Asked if the U.S. is unbeatable when its shots are falling, Johnson replied, "No doubt. When our shots are falling and when they're not falling."
If Johnson sounds confident it's because the U.S. has outscored its last two opponents, Senegal and Australia, by a combined 216-131.
Of course, neither Senegal nor Australia is in the same hoops universe as Spain or Argentina, which are mowing down the opposition on the other side of the bracket.
That's why Elton Brand said he hopes his teammates aren't taking anyone for granted. Brand played on the 2002 U.S. world championship team that finished sixth in Indianapolis.
"We're not going to be cocky about it," Brand said. "There are some teams that can give us competition."
Australia wasn't one of them, at least not for 40 minutes. The Aussies led 15-14 after five minutes and trailed by only 27-23 at the end of the first period. But then the U.S., which has been plagued by slow starts throughout the tourney, began to knock down shots on offense and crack down on defense.
The Americans outscored Australia 32-6 in the second quarter, and it wasn't that close.
"The second quarter, we kind of took off and had the game in hand from that point," Wade said.
"Today was the best we played as a unit, with everyone making the extra pass, getting the guys the best shot possible," Wade said. "When you do that, it makes your team play that much better because everyone feels good, everyone's involved, one through 12. That's what we're looking for."
Offense hasn't been an issue for the Americans, the highest-scoring team in the tournament. But the defense was inconsistent during group play, and that's why Sunday's game was so encouraging.
The U.S. limited the Australians to 41 percent shooting, including 24 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. Australia committed 24 turnovers, many the result of pressure.
"We know that if we play defense, we'll be pretty good," Bosh said. "We know we can score the ball. We know we play with anybody offensively. But we know it's our defense that's going to help us out."
Defense may help the U.S. win the championship. But the Australians couldn't help but be dazzled by the Americans' attack.
Australian point guard C.J. Bruton likened this team to Dream Teams I and II.
"It's a squad compared to them because they move the ball like those teams did," Bruton said. "The teams that have won the gold medal for U.S.A. definitely move the ball as well as this team."
They move it well. And on Sunday they shot it even better.
The Americans shot 54 percent from the floor. And after shooting 39 percent from beyond the arc in group play, the U.S. made 14-of-27 (52 percent) Sunday.
Even Bosh and Brad Miller hit their first international 3-pointers. Three-point shooting was supposed to be one of the Americans' flaws. If the U.S. starts knocking down long-range shots, it will be difficult to beat.
The U.S. has trailed after halftime in one game, against Italy, which it beat 94-85. Wade was asked if the Americans were tempted to look toward the finals and a possible showdown with Argentina or Spain, both also 6-0.
"You don't really think about it," Wade said. "You just win or go home. We just need to get better as a team."
Better? Look out, world.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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