Shaquille O'Neal showed Russia some superpower moves Friday night to end any hope of a huge upset at the World Championship of Basketball.
O'Neal scored 11 of his 21 points in a three-minute span of the second half to break open a close game, and Dream Team II went on to a 111-94 victory in its final tuneup before the medal round starts today.In tonight's semifinals, Dream Team II faces Greece, an 81-55 loser to Croatia on Friday night. Greece coach Makis Dedrinos rested his best players in the second half and said after the game that he was saving them for the bronze medal game against today's Russia-Croatia loser.
The United States, in its first meeting with the former Soviet Union since a 1988 Olympic defeat, was loaded with confidence after consecutive victories of more than 50 points against Australia and Puerto Rico. But the Americans, averaging 123 points on 62 percent shooting in their first five games, led just 52-44 at halftime, missing 22 of 42 shots.
The start of the second half didn't see the situation improve as the Russians twice closed within five points, the last time at 56-51 with 17 minutes left.
Then O'Neal entered the game, and the Russians had no answer.
The 7-foot-1, 300-pound center's 11 points helped extend the U.S. lead to 70-57, and when Joe Dumars and Reggie Miller hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, the advantage was 76-57 with 12:55 remaining.
Miller, who hit 13 of 17 3-pointers in the previous two games, missed six of his first seven 3-pointers. After taking a team-leading 20.2 scoring average into the game, Miller finished with 11 points.
Dumars, who did not play in the previous game, scored 20 points for the United States, and Derrick Coleman had 15. Yevgeni Kissourin scored 18 points, Dmitri Domani 17 and Sergei Bazarevich 14 for Russia.
It looked like another easy victory when Kevin Johnson's layup gave the Americans a 17-7 lead. But nine points by Kissourin and five by Bazarevich keyed a 23-11 run that put Russia in front 30-28 with 9:35 left in the first half.
The U.S. team then scored the next 10 points, including two 3-pointers by Mark Price, to take the lead for good.
But the Russians didn't fold, matching the smallest halftime deficit of eight points managed by Spain in Dream Team II's first game. The original Dream Team led by at least 14 at halftime of every game at the 1992 Olympics and never won by less than 32.
Three of Dream Team II's six victories have been by less than 24 points.