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World Sport

U.S. basketball team bounce back


story.iverson.ap.jpg
High flyer. Iverson goes airborne to score a basket in the USA's tight win over Greece.
SPECIAL REPORT
• Olympics 2004: Special report 

ATHENS, Greece -- The U.S. basketball team restored pride after their loss to Puerto Rico to beat hosts Greece 77-71 in a thrilling pool match, with NBA star Allen Iverson scoring 17 points despite a broken thumb.

World champions Serbia and Montenegro also bounced back from a tough opening with Milos Vujanic hitting a pair of free throws in the dying seconds to give his team a 74-72 win.

Spain looked medal contenders as they beat Argentina 87-76 on the back of Pau Gasol's 26 points.

Humbled by the 92-73 loss to Puerto Rico on Sunday, the U.S. team faced even more adversity when it was revealed before Tuesday's match that Iverson had a fractured bone in the right thumb.

On top of everything, the Americans faced a hostile Greek crowd that booed the U.S. players every time they touched the ball and shook the rafters with each Greek score.

But Iverson backed up his reputation as a gritty player, leading the U.S. when Tim Duncan got into foul trouble.

Poor shooting

Still, outside shooting problems continued to plague the U.S. with most of their points coming on rebounds and inside the paint.

"Believe it or not, I think we'll make an outside shot some day," said coach Larry Brown adding the team still has a long way to go despite playing better defensively against the Greeks.

The Greeks had a couple of chances to pull even with the U.S. but could not find the mark when they needed to most, though, missing several open shots near the end.

"At some points in the game we really did think we could beat them," said Greek guard Theodorus Paploukas.

Serbia and Montenegro escaped with their first win of the tournament when Gianluca Basile watched his 12-footer bounce out off the rim as time ran out, spoiling Italy's eight-point comeback in the final two minutes.

Serbia and Montenegro needed a win after losing in the final seconds to Argentina on Sunday, and looked to be in control with a 13-point lead halfway through the third quarter. But a couple of turnovers let Italy back into the game.

"It was a difficult game, exactly like the battle against Argentina two days ago," said Serbian coach Zelimir Obradovic.

In other preliminary round play on Tuesday, China beat New Zealand 69-62 on the back of Yao Ming's 39-point performance and Australia beat Angola 83-59.

Puerto Rico came back to earth, losing to Lithuania 98-90 in their first game since handing the United States their first Olympic defeat since 1988.



Reuters contributed to this report.

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