Dream Team Returns to Form

Things returned to normal for the U.S.

men’s basketball team.

Shrugging off their lackluster performance two days earlier against Lithuania, the Americans had the kind of dominating performance that is expected from them in an 102-56 victory over New Zealand today.

Shooting one of their highest percentages of the Olympics and asserting their superiority right from the outset, the U.S. team beat up on the weakest opponent in their bracket after beating Lithuania by just nine points two nights earlier.

Vince Carter and Kevin Garnett led the way in the beginning, dunking and shooting from the outside with equal dexterity. They finished with 18 and 14 points, respectively.

Allan Houston added 17 and Antonio McDyess 15.

One Man Short

The Americans were a man short as Alonzo Mourning was back home in Miami for the birth of his daughter, Myka Sydney, who weighed in at 7 pounds, 7 ounces at 5:17 p.m. Friday — about 11 hours before tipoff.

The U.S. team didn’t miss him, though. Not in the slightest.

They went ahead by 10 points with 8:17 gone, got the lead up to 20 on a jumper by Garnett less than 3½ minutes later and went to the locker room with a 58-32 lead after Tim Hardaway hit a long 3-pointer at the buzzer.

The lead reached 30 on a reverse layup by McDyess with 13:03 left in the game and 40 with 3:07 left.

The margin of victory didn’t quite match their 47-point trouncing of China in their first game, but that game stayed close for almost six minutes whereas this one didn’t stay tight even half that long.

Hot Shooting, Cool Dunking

New Zealand tied it at 4-4 and pulled within two at 9-7 before the Americans went on a 31-8 run and took a 40-15 lead on a dunk by Shareef Abdur-Rahim.

Carter, who had trouble finishing off three alley-oop dunks in the previous two games, had no such troubles on his first dunk attempt this time. It actually was a reverse slam off an alley-oop pass, and Carter made two 3-pointers later in the first half.

The U.S. team shot an incredible 88 percent in the first half, making 16 of 18 shots. Gary Payton and Houston were the only players to miss from inside the 3-point line.

The barrage continued throughout the second half as the Americans kept pulling further and further ahead.

Marks’ Dunk Impresses

The biggest highlight from New Zealand came from their lone NBA player, Sean Marks.

A teammate of Carter’s last season in Toronto, Marks had an impressive dunk early in the second half when he drove to the basket with the ball held high in his left hand and slammed it through.

It was the kind of dunk that would impress even the best dunkers in the world, and that it did. Carter lit up with a wide smile on the U.S. team bench as Marks ran back to play defense.

Carter got a congratulatory smile in return from Marks with five minutes left in the game. Isolated one-on-on against Marks in the corner, Carter shook free for a 3-pointer that made the score 91-52.

The Americans reached 100 points on a foul shots by Vin Baker with 12 seconds left.

Carter finished things off with an emphatic dunk with 1.8 seconds left to surpass Houston for high-scoring honors.