Following Coach Larry Brown's mantra of "playing the right way," the U.S. Olympic men's basketball team dominated the defending world champion with defense in an impressive 78-60 exhibition victory over Serbia and Montenegro last night in Belgrade.
The Americans took a partisan crowd out of the game by holding Serbia and Montenegro to nine points in the second quarter, and their defense never relented. They showed none of the faults that hampered them in earlier games against Italy and Germany while shutting down an opponent that appeared equal parts overconfident and incompetent.
Tim Duncan led the U.S. team with 16 points, LeBron James added 11 and the entire team played with a level of determination that should go a long way toward reestablishing the U.S. team as one of the favorites for the gold medal in Athens.
When the evening began, the U.S. team wasn't even picked to win. Local betting parlors listed Serbia and Montenegro as a four-point favorite.
"We are the team that everyone wants to play their best basketball against," Lamar Odom said. "We're playing for a lot, and it means a lot to us."
The U.S. team went 14 for 14 from the free throw line and 30 for 60 from the field, while holding Serbia and Montenegro to 35 percent shooting overall and 1 for 14 from three-point range.
A 14-0 run to begin the second quarter put the Americans in control, and their defense the rest of the way kept the home team from making any kind of extended rally.
"We have a young team and are still learning about each other and hopefully that will improve as each of these games goes on," Brown said. "The experience we had playing here was real important for us."
The U.S. team played man-to-man defense, and two of the game's best one-on-one moves were made by Dejan Bodiroga -- often called the best player in Europe -- against Carmelo Anthony.
The Americans bounced back after missing their first five shots and led 20-17 after one quarter.
Greene Loses Again
Jamaican Asafa Powell beat Maurice Greene again in the 100 meters at the Weltklasse Golden League meet in Zurich, further establishing himself as a top contender for gold at the Olympics.
Powell, who won his third straight 100 race, was behind Greene until pulling away in the final 20 meters to win in 9.93 seconds. Greene was second in 9.94.
"I guess I'm the big favorite for the Olympic Games now," said Powell, who also beat Greene at a meet in London on July 31.
Allen Johnson (Lake Braddock) won the 110 hurdles, leading an American sweep of the podium in 13.13, ahead of Terrence Trammell and Duane Ross.
"The time has come to reap the harvest in Athens," Johnson said.
Reigning 400 hurdles world champion Jana Pittman of Australia pulled out after tearing the outer meniscus in her knee during warmups. She needs arthroscopic surgery, organizers said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.