Carter, Team USA put on a show in rout of Dominicans
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - And Venezuela thought its political situation was volatile.
Venezuela gets a taste of Team USA basketball Friday night when the teams meet in the last of four FIBA Tournament of the Americas games at Roberto Clemente Coliseum.
While tourists are being advised to stay away from Venezuela because of its political unrest, its basketball players might actually prefer to be at home than face the Americans in the Olympic qualifying tournament.
In the midst of playing four games in as many nights, the United States has hammered consecutive opponents by an average of 36 points, pulling away from Brazil on Wednesday before pounding the Dominican Republic.
"It is fun for me to watch the ball change sides (swinging the ball around on offense) and guys who have seven-, eight- or ten-footers, giving it up to a guy who might have a better shot," U.S. coach Larry Brown said. "That's great basketball. We've played that way the last two nights.
After an embarrassing appearance at last year's World Championships, where they had their 58-game international winning streak with NBA players snapped, the Americans made sure this tournament would be different.
USA Basketball took no chances, adding the best players in the NBA to a team that must finish at least third in this tournament to qualify for the 2004 Summer Games in Athens. The squad looks like a shoo-in for Greece.
"From a personal standpoint, I love being associated with our team, because we have 12 stars who have made a commitment to play the right way - as a team - and we do that from the beginning of the game until the end," Brown said.
The Americans' first two opponents have been unable to stop the high-flying act of Vince Carter or the inside game of Tim Duncan. They also haven't had much success against a suffocating defense.
Carter has been treating this tournament as an opportunity to restore some of the luster to his recently tarnished game. In Thursday's win alone, he had a personal three-minute highlight reel in the second quarter.
The Toronto Raptors swingman soared for a dunk, then made another seconds later for a 42-28 lead. He drilled 3-pointers on consecutive possessions before capping another signature international moment.
Allen Iverson sped down the middle of the court and whipped a behind-the-back pass to Jason Kidd, who lobbed a pass off the backboard. Trailing from the right wing, Carter soared for the carom and hammered it home, making it 52-32 with 3:32 remaining.
Although not as awe-inspiring as Carter's dunk in the 2000 Olympics, when he sailed over 7-foot Frenchman Fredric Weis, the play was everything everyone wants this squad to be - an unselfish group that puts on a show.
It marked the first time the U.S. scored more than 110 points in an international game with NBA players since the 2001 Goodwill Games. Team USA shot a blistering 65 percent (46-of-71) from the field and had 39 assists.
The United States finishes its run of four games in as many days against the Virgin Islands, the weak sister of the tournament, on Saturday.
Also on Friday, Mexico faces Uruguay at 2:30 p.m. EDT, Argentina takes on Canada at 5 p.m. and the Virgin Islands meets the Dominican Republic at 7:30 p.m. The U.S. and Venezuela are scheduled for a 10 p.m. tip.
Mexico and Canada are tied atop Group A at 1-0. The U.S. leads Brazil and the Dominicans by a game in Group B.
The top four teams in each group advance to the second round, where they face the four teams they have not played from the other group. This is where things should get a bit tougher for Team USA as it meets Argentina, Puerto Rico and Canada.
After the second round, the four teams with the best records advance to the semifinals on August 30. The semifinal winners assure themselves of Olympic berths and play for the gold medal.
The semifinal losers play for the bronze medal in the tournament's most important game. The winner gets a berth in the Olympics, while the loser gets nothing.
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index