Sluggish start for Dream Team

BASKETBALL
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The Independent Online
The US "Dream Team" emerged from a sluggish first half to clinch a 96-68 victory over Argentina on the opening day of the Olympic basketball tournament.

"Never had a doubt about winning the game," said David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs, who led the Americans with 18 points and seven rebounds. Shaquille O'Neal was next highest with 13 points.

The South Americans led 15-14 before a power failure with 12min 35 sec to go in the first half knocked some of the lights out at the Georgia Dome. After they came back on, a Robinson three-point play gave the United States a lead that proved decisive.

"We seemed to lose a little interest at times," their coach, Lenny Wilkens, said. "We were standing around way too much."

The United State's match, however, paled in comparison to Lithuania's tense double-overtime win over Croatia and the Brazilian Oscar Schmidt's heroics in earlier games.

Lithuania's 35-year-old captain Rimas Kurtinaitis scored nine of his 12 points in the second overtime of an 83-81 win over Croatia. "I feel very good about it," Kurtinaitis said. "It is my job because I am the oldest. I had two bad halves but the overtimes were good."

"We wanted to be second in our pool," said the Lithuania guard Sarunas Marciulionis of the Denver Nuggets. "It was a very big game to set the tone for the Olympics, and to maybe not have to play the Dream Team in the semi-finals."

The top four teams in each six-team pool advance to the quarter-finals with the team finishing immediately behind the United States not meeting it again until the gold medal game.

Oscar Schmidt, 38-years-old and appearing in a record-equalling fifth Olympics, scored 45 points including the game-winning three-point play as Brazil beat Puerto Rico 101-98 on Saturday.

With the score tied at 95 and 17.8sec left in the game, Schmidt made a tough leaning bank shot from the right side as the clock wound down and was fouled. He converted the foul shot. "The final play was not a set play for me," said Schmidt, who shot ten for 22 from three-point range, four for eight from inside the circle and seven for seven from the foul line. "I think they [his team-mates] just wanted to give it to me," he said.

Jose Piculin Ortiz led Puerto Rico with 35 points and 11 rebounds.

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