BEIJING Call it "My Big Fat Greek Avenging."
Behind 18 points from both Kobe Bryant and Chris Bosh, the U.S. men's basketball team beat the last international foe that the Americans had lost to with a 92-69 trouncing of Greece in Beijing Olympics Group B action Thursday night.
The Americans now boast a perfect 3-0 record in qualifying games, setting up a battle against fellow Group B leader Spain (3-0) Saturday night.
Greece upset the United States in the 2006 World Championships semifinals in Japan, costing the U.S. a shot at the gold medal. Several players from the '06 U.S. team including LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade are current Olympians and made sure the entire American squad knew the importance of Thursday night's rematch in Beijing's Olympic Basketball Gymnasium.
"We thought they embarrassed us in 2006," said Carlos Boozer of the Utah Jazz. "A lot of guys came with that same passion, the same hunger from that night, and we didn't forget how well they played against us."
Deron Williams, Boozer's Jazz teammate, agreed.
"There was a lot of talk. It was a big focus of ours not just the past couple of days, but ever since we started meeting together back in June. It was definitely a game we had circled."
Wade contributed 17 points and six steals part of Greece's 25 turnovers forced by the U.S. James added 13 points and two of the numerous high-flying throw-downs, still remembering the sting of '06.
"Of course it was there," James said. "That was the last team that beat us. We knew we had to clean up our pick-and-roll defense they ran it some 40-odd times in that game and in order for us to win, we had to control their pick and roll, which we did."
Boozer echoed the Americans' sentiments of Bosh's contributions.
"He was a presence out there," he said. "The way he played the pick and roll, he made it easier for our guards to get back."
Williams finished with five points one shot inside the arc and one outside and added two rebounds and three assists. Boozer played the final 5:37 of the game, making both of his shots and picking up an assist.
Much was said about the Americans matching up against the experienced, physical Greek guards "the best guards we've faced yet," opined Williams. And when starting point guard Jason Kidd picked up his third personal early in the first quarter, it meant more playing time for Williams and fellow reserve point guard Chris Paul, with both of them playing together for much of the game and Williams manning the shooting guard spot.
"It's an adjustment," Williams said. "I'm still trying to get used to it and decide when I need to play-make and when to shoot. It's a little confusing, but I'm having fun doing it. It's great for me to get minutes any way I can."
After trailing in the first five minutes of the opening quarter, the U.S. had taken control by the end of the first and flirted with 20-point leads just before halftime and made good on those margins and more early into the second half.
Theodoros Papaloukas led Greece with 15 points, while Vasileios Spanoulis added 14 on a paltry 4-of-13 shooting."It was kind of a statement game for us," Williams said. "We came out here and proved that we're the best team in the tournament."
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