BEIJING Coming into the Beijing Olympics men's basketball tournament, the preliminary-round pairing of the United States and Spain in Group B was supposed to be the early marquee match-up, and both teams obliged by bringing identical 3-0 records into Saturday night's contest.
But what was supposed to be a battle between group leaders ended up being the biggest American blowout to date. The U.S. put a 119-82 pasting on Spain, finally finding an offensive attack to match the intense defense on display since the start of the Games.
"Tonight, it was clicking on both sides of the ball," said the United States' Carlos Boozer, one of the four on the 12-man team whodidn't finish in double-figure scoring.
That's right, eight U.S. players scored in double digits, led by LeBron James' 18 points, with Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony each contributing 16 the latter with four 3-pointers in his strongest '08 Games outing yet.
More lopsided U.S.-to-Spain numbers 58 percent to 39 percent in FG shooting, 48 percent to 21 percent on 3-pointers; 24 to 12 in assists (James and Chris Paul each had eight), 26 to 7 in points off turnovers (the Americans forced 28 total); and 32 to 0 in fast-break points.
"We make teams speed up a little bit, make them turn the ball over and make them make decisions at a rushed tempo," said Boozer.
And for the first time in Beijing, the Americans finally got offensive.
"We've played great basketball defensively all tournament long, but our outside shooting hasn't been there and we've still won by 20," said Deron Williams. "So you see what happens when that outside shooting is going for us, how dangerous we can be."
Williams finished with 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting, adding two rebounds and three assists before fouling out. Boozer contributed five points and two boards.
With the win, the United States (4-0) clinched Group B's top seed in the medal-round quarterfinals, which begin Wednesday. Spain (3-1) will be the second seed, even with one more day's worth of pool games to play.
Felipe Reyes led Spain with team highs of 19 points and eight rebounds. Pau Gasol was the only other Spaniard to score in double digits with 13.
Spain is loaded with NBA-caliber talent Gasol and his brother, Marc; Jose Calderon; Juan Carlos Navarro; and Rudy Fernandez, to name the key contributors. Even one-time Jazz point guard Raul Lopez made a five-minute cameo, failing to score.
But even with all that firepower with pros from both sides of the Atlantic, Spain had trouble matching the U.S. intensity and output.
While Spain played even the first half-dozen minutes, the United States began flirting with double-digit leads by the end of the first period, then 20-point margins by the end of the first half. Spain never seriously threatened in the second half.Both teams conclude pool play Monday against lesser opponents teams that missed out on making the quarterfinals. The U.S. meets Dirk Nowitzki and Germany (1-3), while Spain faces winless Angola (0-4).
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