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U.S. has sparkle, but not gold
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published September 2, 2006
SAITAMA, Japan - As they warmed up before Friday's semifinal against Greece, the U.S. players put on a jam session for the fans.
Dwight Howard dunked emphatically. Dwyane Wade bounced the ball off the backboard, caught it and stuffed. Elton Brand jammed an alley-oop pass. Finally, LeBron James flew down the lane for a tomahawk.
As the crowd roared, the Greeks lined up at the other end and shot free throws. The moment foretold Greece's 101-95 victory in the semifinals of the World Championships.
The Americans have dazzling skill; the Greeks are a dazzling team.
"We have to learn the international game better," U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We learned a lot today because we played a team that plays amazing basketball and plays together."
The loss means USA (7-1) plays Argentina (7-1) for the bronze medal at 6:30 this morning after the Turkey-France fifth-place game. Greece (8-0) faces fellow unbeaten Spain in the final Sunday. Spain defeated Argentina 75-74 in Friday's other semifinal.
"I think we showed everybody that maybe we're not very good athletes like them, but we know how to play the game," said Greece guard Theodoros Papaloukas, who carved up the U.S. defense with 12 assists. "We are clever."
The Greeks don't have an NBA player on their roster, although guard Vassilis Spanoulis is headed for the Houston Rockets. Spanoulis led Greece with 22 points, Mihalis Kakiouzis added 15 and 6-foot-10 Sofoklis Schortsianitis - nicknamed "Baby Shaq" - bulled his way to 14 on 6-for-7 shooting.
USA was led by its three captains - Carmelo Anthony with 27 points, Wade with 19 and James with 17.
The Greeks did one thing beautifully in this game: the pick-and-roll. No matter what defense Krzyzewski tried, the Greeks found open shooters beyond the 3-point arc or open lanes to the basket. As a result, the Greeks shot 63 percent.
In the earlier rounds, the United States applied defensive pressure to create easy baskets. That didn't work against the Greeks, who committed only 10 turnovers, the fewest by an American opponent.
Here's the worst indictment of the U.S. defense: It gave up more points to Greece than China did.
Now the Americans have to bounce back against an Argentine team led by Manu Ginobli and Andres Nocioni. A victory would produce a bronze medal, which is what the maligned 2004 U.S. Olympic team earned in Athens. For this group, bronze wasn't the goal, but it would be better than nothing.
"I want to go home with something," Chris Bosh said. "Fourth place, I'll be walking home with a sandwich."
DETROIT 73, SACRAMENTO 62: Deanna Nolan had 21 points and Katie Smith scored all 16 of her points in the second half to help host Detroit even the best-of-five WNBA final at a game apiece. Smith's 3-pointer with two seconds remaining in the third quarter pulled the Shock - who had trailed by as many as 11 - within 54-48. The Shock scored 14 of the next 16 points and didn't look back. . . . Seth Sulka stepped down as Phoenix general manager.