Saturday, August 25, 2007

U.S. stifles Canada to stay perfect at FIBA Americas

- The United States turned up the defense and turned away Canada.

The Americans held the Canadians to just two field goals in a dominant second quarter, pulling away for a 113-63 victory Saturday to remain unbeaten in the FIBA Americas tournament.

Carmelo Anthony scored 25 points, equaling the second-best U.S. total in an Olympic qualifying game, and Michael Redd added 19, including five 3-pointers. But the United States couldn't shake Canada until it tightened its defense after a competitive first quarter.

Kobe Bryant had 15 points, Amare Stoudemire 12 and LeBron James 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists for the Americans, who reached 100 points less than 2 1/2 minutes into the fourth quarter and are averaging 116 in the tournament -- not far off the record 121.2 the Dream Team put up in 1992.

The United States closes pool play Sunday night against Brazil, which also brought an undefeated record into its game later Saturday against the U.S. Virgin Islands. The winner of Sunday's game should earn the top seed from Group B in the second round, which begins Monday.

Olumuyiwa Famutimi scored 17 points for the Canadians, who were playing for the fourth straight day and were overwhelmed by the deeper Americans, who had Friday off. They hung close for a quarter before going more than 6 minutes without a basket to open the second period.

The early starting time attracted what was easily the largest crowd of the tournament, and it was treated to an entertaining first quarter. The United States made 10 of its first 13 shots, including dunks from Anthony, Bryant and James, and led 24-9 after James' powerful dunk with 3:20 remaining in the period.

But the Canadians hung around by going 4-of-5 from 3-point range, and when Jermaine Anderson made a jumper with about 2 seconds left, the U.S. lead was only 28-21 heading to the second even after the Americans shot 67 percent from the field.

It wasn't close for much longer.

The Americans quickly pulled away behind their reserves, who scored the first 18 U.S. points in what became a 27-4 run to open the second. The Canadians were 0-of-8 from the field during the stretch, managing just four field goals by Juan Mendez.

By the time Jesse Young made a layup -- which Anthony nearly blocked -- with 3:45 remaining, the Americans led 55-27. Canada quickly had another drought, managing just five free throws before David Thomas' made their other basket on an offensive rebound with 16 seconds to play.

The Canadians were 2-for-13 with four turnovers in the period, and the Americans outscored them 37-13 to take a 65-34 halftime lead. The United States made 23 of 37 shots (62 percent) in the half.

The lead quickly ballooned into the 40s behind a couple of impressive plays from James. He grabbed a defensive rebound and drove all the way down the court for a backboard-shaking dunk, then about 2 minutes later threw a look-away bounce pass to a cutting Bryant along the baseline for a reverse layup.

Anthony shot 9-of-12 in tying Gary Payton's 25-point night in the 1999 qualifier. Allen Iverson, Anthony's Denver teammate, scored a U.S. event-record 28 in the '03 qualifier.

Canada never had much chance of getting two-time MVP Steve Nash to play this summer -- though there is a chance he'd consider playing next summer if they advanced. The Canadians then lost Syracuse's Andy Rautins, whose father, Leo, coaches the team, to a serious knee injury in the opener against Brazil.

But the Canadians, who are off Sunday, are already into the second round.

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