U.S. turns on 2nd-half intensity, trips Australia, 89-79

Marion joins starters, Duncan gets ball as pros rise in 24-12 last quarter

Men's Basketball

Athens Olympics 2004

August 20, 2004|By Jerry Brewer | Jerry Brewer,ORLANDO SENTINEL

ATHENS - So the U.S. men's basketball team does possess some intensity.

The players tapped the button yesterday, averted embarrassment and took an 89-79 victory over Australia at the Helliniko Indoor Arena.

Tim Duncan scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, Allen Iverson contributed 16 points and Shawn Marion finished with 16 points and eight rebounds as Team USA outscored Australia 24-12 in the fourth quarter.

Marion, inserted into the starting lineup in the second half, led the U.S. comeback, helping the team switch from passive to intense. LeBron James added eight points and five assists and began a 10-0 fourth-quarter run with a spectacular touch pass to Dwyane Wade. The Americans went from down 67-65 to up 75-67 during that run, and suddenly they looked relaxed for the first time.

"Hopefully, we're just getting better," assistant coach Gregg Popovich said of the U.S. team, still reeling from a 92-73 opening-game loss to Puerto Rico.

After often ignoring Duncan in the first two games, the Americans established him early in this one, and the strategy triggered 57 percent shooting.

James said: "Tim Duncan is the best player in the world, and there is something wrong if we don't get the ball to him.

"We know that every team is going to play a zone against us, and we ... have to attack it."

Defensively, the U.S. team struggled in the first half, allowing 51 points, and then gradually regained credibility leading up to that final surge.

"The moment we step onto the floor here, we have to understand that the other teams are better," U.S. coach Larry Brown said, "that the coaching from around the world is better, that the passion for the sport around the world is better.

"I see the passion of these other teams here, I watch them warm up and how together they are and how they are with each other. They've got basketball players, we have athletes. I can only hope our players are starting to see that."

The Los Angeles Times contributed to this article. The Times and the Orlando Sentinel are Tribune Publishing newspapers.

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