FIBA World Championship 2006 - Unofficial Blog

Thursday, August 31, 2006

USA reach the semis, Germany is out

It was an important victory for the United States. Carmelo Anthony scored 19 points and LeBron James added 13, as the United States advanced to the semifinals of the World Basketball Championships with an 85-65 triumph over Germany.

In fact, the United States used a big third quarter to turn a one-point edge into a 15- point lead and cruised from there to remain one of four undefeated teams in the tournament. The U.S. will now face Greece on Friday.

The Greeks also stayed unbeaten and advanced earlier Wednesday with a 73-56 win over France. Friday's other semifinal game will pit two more perfect teams, as Spain faces Argentina. The Spaniards and Argentines moved on with quarterfinal triumphs on Tuesday.

It's important to mention that the winners of Friday's games will meet for the gold medal on Sunday. The losers will play for bronze.

The German star, Dirk Nowitzki, scored 15 points for Germany. He entered the contest averaging 24.5 points in the tournament, but was just 3-for-12 from the field. Ademola Okulaja, a former star at North Carolina, also had 15 in defeat.

"I think he commands so much attention. We put a lot of different guys on him," United States head coach Mike Krzyzewski said of Nowitzki. "Shane (Battier), Chris Bosh did a really good job...LeBron, Carmelo. He's the center of attention for everything we were doing in defensive part."

The American squad held a slim 40-39 edge at the intermission and maintained that one-point margin early in the third quarter, but Anthony heated up.

The Denver Nuggets star drained a three-pointer and followed with a dunk off a steal and an assist by James to ignite a 16-2 run for the Americans. Anthony added another shot from beyond the arc during the burst and finished the period with 10 points.

Chris Bosh capped the big spurt with a three-point play off a near half-court, alley-oop feed from Chris Paul, giving the Americans a 60-45 cushion.

In fact, the Germans pulled as close as 10, but the Americans scored the last five points of the period and a buzzer-beating, three-pointer by Paul gave the U.S. a 67-52 advantage heading to the fourth.

"We came out in the second half with the defensive mind-set that we really needed to get some stops and get out and run," LeBron James admitted. "We were able to take control of the game in the third quarter."

A 7-0 run pulled Germany within 72-61 midway through the final period. However, Joe Johnson followed with a three-pointer to start a string of seven straight for the Americans and the Germans never recovered.

"I believe that they did a good job of packing in the zone and making us shoot," James expressed. "We missed some early shots, but we never got down on ourselves. The same shots we missed in the first half, we made in the second half. We made the adjustment."

The Americans opened a 23-21 lead after one quarter, then struggled early in the second. They managed just two points in the first five minutes of the period, but Germany could not take full advantage.

Nowitzki picked up his third foul with just over three minutes left in the half, but Germany forged in front, 39-37, on a tip-in by Okulaja with 1:04 left.

Anthony answered with a three-pointer on the next U.S. possession and the Americans went into the break with the one-point lead.

Indeed, the Team USA made just 14-of-44 shots in the first half and connected on only 5-of-20 from three-point range.

'We're going to have nights like that when shots don't fall,' Anthony believes. 'Our shots didn't fall tonight. However, we did it on the defensive end. We figured out that we weren't making our shots in the first half, so we picked it up on the defensive end" he finished.

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