Angola hangs tougher

Times Staff Writer

BEIJING -- Nice warmup.

In a moral victory they could have dedicated to Herlander Coimbra, their countryman whom Charles Barkley elbowed in 1992, the gritty little Angolans stuck with the U.S. superstars Tuesday night in Wukesong Arena, losing only 97-76.

That was a barnburner compared with what the U.S. was expected to do with the Angolans starting a front line that went 6 feet 7, 6-6, 6-5.

The starting U.S. guards were almost that big with 6-6 Kobe Bryant and 6-4 Jason Kidd.

After opening against China in a historic game that was supposed to fire up the U.S. players, they were supposed to step on Angola on their way to their matchups against real teams from Greece on Thursday and Spain on Saturday.


So much for that script.

With Coach Mike Krzyzewski reminding his players not to stop shooting three-pointers after their one-for-15 start against China, they came out firing, making three of their first four.

After that, they were two for 17, so that issue is ongoing.

Dwyane Wade led the U.S. with 19 points. Dwight Howard scored 14, and LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony had 12.

The U.S. has a colorful history with Angola, going back to 1992 in Barcelona when Barkley elbowed the 6-6, 170-pound Coimbra, whose narrow chest didn’t look big enough to accommodate Barkley’s entire elbow.

The Dream Team won that one by 68 points, 116-48, breaking a 7-7 tie with a 46-1 run that made it 53-8.

This wasn’t like that.

The U.S. was awesome in spurts; they just didn’t last long. The Angolans exchanged high fives in the mixed zone afterward, settling the question of who went home happier.

“It is difficult because they are bigger, they are stronger and they force us to do a lot of turnovers,” guard Armando Costa said. “But I think we did OK. We scored 76 points, which is OK for us, and they didn’t score 100 points. . . .


“They were expecting to beat us, like 60 points or more.”

Costa, 25, was 9 in 1992, but who in Angola ever forgot a moment of that game?

“Barkley elbow our player, I remember,” Costa said. “This team here [the U.S.] is more friendly.”

Gee, if only they played well too. Look for Greece to play a zone defense and see how long the drought lasts.

“It’s like a real good hitter in baseball,” Krzyzewski said. “Sometimes you don’t get hits and then all of a sudden you break out. My feeling is as long as it doesn’t interfere with how they’re playing defense, their energy, they should just keep shooting. . . .

“I like the fact that we haven’t been hot yet and it hasn’t affected the intensity of our defense. I think it says a lot for the character of our guys.”

OK, put a check by “character.”

It’s “marksmanship” that still needs work.