U.S. men looking like world beaters

Times Staff Writer

BEIJING -- Seems like old times?

For anyone born since 1992, when the Dream Team awed an overmatched world, the sight of a U.S. basketball team flattening everything in its path, as it just did to Spain, another supposed contender, is a novelty, but it used to be like this.

No, really.

After buttering up undefeated Spain for two days, or convincing themselves the Spaniards were a threat, the U.S. routed them, 119-82, Saturday night in the Wukesong Arena.

The U.S. is 4-0, leading Pool B. The only other undefeated team is Lithuania, which is 4-0 in Pool A.

Of course, the U.S. buried the Lithuanians by 36 two weeks ago in Macao, so they might not be that close, either.

Despite the skepticism that comes with seven losses in the last three world competitions, it’s becoming ever clearer this is an old-fashioned, dominant U.S. team.


“When you commit to something, the hard work that you put in, you want the prize at the end, and they’ve identified the prize,” said Jay Triano, the Toronto Raptors assistant who coached the U.S. select team against the big team in practices in Las Vegas.

“I’m not a betting guy, but I would put down everything on this team winning.”

Of course, at this point, who would you get to bet on anyone else without a 20-point spot?

Proving they can do more than defend, dunk and hurl bricks from the three-point line, the U.S. actually found the range Saturday night, making seven of its first 10 three-point tries and finishing 12 for 25.

The U.S. players also defended. This time their focus was Pau Gasol, the Lakers center who had been burning up the tournament.

Gasol came into the game averaging 18 points, shooting 69%, having outscored Yao Ming, 29-11, in their meeting, posterizing him several times while making 13 of 17 shots.

Saturday night he didn’t even get off a shot in the first quarter, although he did have three turnovers.

Posting up NBA-style, Gasol was like a human bull’s-eye. The U.S. players have spent weeks adjusting to the international drive-and-kick game with its premium on three-point shooting. Post basketball is something they already know from the NBA.

So the U.S. players double-teamed Gasol as if he were Shaquille O’Neal in his prime. Just for good measure, they ran the offense through Gasol’s man, usually Dwight Howard, at the other end.

By the end of the first quarter, the U.S. was up by 13 and garbage time was coming fast.

Yet to be seen is whether the rest of this tournament is any more competitive than those last three quarters.