Dream Team II made the gold-medal game at the World Championship of Basketball into a showcase for the strength of the NBA.
"There was pressure on us to win, but it was easy because we had the talent," Dominique Wilkins said Sunday in Toronto after the United States' 137-91 rout of a fatigued and outmanned Russian team.The first time at the World Championship for NBA players resulted in a clean sweep of eight games, with every victory by at least 15 points. It's the third world title for the United States, which also won in 1954 and 1986.
Dream Team II made a habit of starting slow in their first seven games of the 16-team, 11-day tournament, but the Americans put this game to bed early, making 16 of their first 17 shots and leading Russia 42-16 when the game was less than nine minutes old.
"We wanted to play our best early, and it was no contest," coach Don Nelson said.
After scoring just 40 points in the first half of Saturday night's 97-58 semifinal victory over Greece, Dream Team II matched that just 8:19 into the final and went on to its highest point total of the tournament. Dream Team I's highest production was 127 points in the 1992 Olympics.
"The U.S. has the best players in the world, regardless of whether it's Dream Team I, II, III, IV, V, VI or VII," said Derrick Coleman, who led a big early burst. "Comparing Dream Teams means people are just trying to divide us."
Russia, which lost to the United States 111-94 Friday night, was coming off an emotional 66-64 semifinal victory over favored Croatia, a game that ended just 15 hours before tip-off Sunday. The Russians also played without their best big man, Andrei Fetisov, who was not in uniform because of an injured right ankle.
"Last night's victory took everything out of us," Russia coach Sergei Belov said. "The desire was there, but we couldn't do it. Fatigue took away our strength, which is defense. But staying with these players for 10, 20, 30 minutes is an achievement."
Coleman, starting for just the third time, got the Americans going with a 3-pointer and a three-point play in the first minute of the game, and Joe Dumars followed with another 3-pointer for a 9-0 lead.
Coleman scored all of his 13 points during the 42-16 burst that started the game. After shooting 37 percent in the first half of the lackluster semifinal victory over Greece, the United States shot 71.8 percent (28-for-39) in the first half and led 73-40 at halftime.
"We got on the fast break and pushed the ball upcourt," Coleman said. "Russia played great against Croatia, but against us they were a little tired. I was really enjoying myself out there, just trying to take advantage of opportunities. I think this was the best game we played."
Wilkins, the oldest American player at 34, led the United States with 20 points. Shaquille O'Neal, who finished as the team's leading scorer with an 18.0 average and was tournament MVP, scored 18 in the final game, although he missed three 3-point attempts in the late going.
"The line was too short," O'Neal said of his abortive 3-point attempts. "I should have stepped back a few feet and I would hit it."
O'Neal said he never was successfully guarded by an opponent during the tournament.
"Nobody tried to double-team me," he said. "If only one guy is covering me, I just fake one way and go the other."
Alonzo Mourning scored all of his 15 points in the second half, and Shawn Kemp finished with 14.
Sergei Babkov scored 22 points, Mikhail Mikhailov 19 and Sergei Bazarevich 17 for Russia, which finished 6-2 in the tournament, with both losses coming to the United States. The former Soviet Union handed the Americans their most infamous defeats in the 1972 and 1988 Olympics.
The latter loss, more than any other, led to the acceptance of NBA players into international competition. That vote by FIBA, the international governing body, led to the original Dream Team's appearance in the 1992 Olympics.
Dream Team I rolled to the gold medal, winning every game by at least 32 points. Dream Team II had three victory margins under 30 points, but Sunday's triumph was impressive.
"We were drained after our victory over Croatia," said Bazarevich, who joined Dino Radja of Croatia, Kemp, O'Neal and Reggie Miller on the all-tournament team. "We were tired both physically and mentally. It's a pity we couldn't give as good a performance as we did against the Dream Team the first time. Personally, I didn't want this game to end."
The final-game blowout improved Dream Team II's scoring average to 120.1, the equivalent of 144 points in a 48-minute NBA game. The original Dream Team averaged 117.3.
The devastating first half took any drama out of the game for the crowd of 32,616 at SkyDome, the largest ever to see a basketball game in Canada.
A 3-pointer by Wilkins put the Americans at 100 points with 11 minutes left in the game. The Russians had one good second-half stretch, scoring 10 straight points to make it 114-75.
Croatia 78, Greece 60
It wasn't the medal Croatia expected, but a 78-60 victory over Greece on Sunday meant bronze in the World Championship of Basketball.
Dino Radja had 22 points and Arijan Komazec 21 to lead Croatia, which entered the tournament considered almost as sure a lock for the silver as the United States was for the gold. Croatia, however, was beaten 66-64 by Russia in the semifinals Saturday night and never got to meet Dream Team II.
"It was hard to play 11 hours after an emotional stressful loss," Radja said. "It wasn't a beautiful game, but we controlled it from the beginning."
Croatia (7-1) was making its first appearance in the tournament, although Komazec and Toni Kukoc of the Chicago Bulls played for Yugoslavia, which won the title in 1990.
Croatia pulled away at the start of the second half as Greece (4-4) made just one of 10 shots from the field in the first four minutes. The lead was 56-41 with 11:30 to play on a turnaround by Radja, who plays for the Boston Celtics.
Greece made one final run, making five straight shots to get within 58-51 with 8:30 left, but Komazec made the last of his four 3-pointers 30 seconds later and Croatia pulled away. Komazec, who also had five assists, made seven of eight free throws over the final 2:34.
Kukoc, who had been so dominating in the tournament until the semifinals, finished with 14 points and only one assist. Stojan Vrankovic, who played for the Celtics, had 11 points and 15 rebounds for Croatia.
"We have to be satisfied," Radja said. "In the last three competitons - Olympics, European Championship and here - we have three medals. Remember, we are a country of just 4 million people."
Fanis Christodoulo and Panagiotis Fassoulas each had 15 points for Greece, which lost to the United States 97-58 in the semifinals. Greece's best previous World Championship finish was sixth in 1990.
"No one feels deflated," said Greek coach Makis Dedronis, who took over the team just two weeks before the tournament. "We knew going in that Croatia and the United States were a level above us."
Australia 96, Puerto Rico 83
At Hamilton, Ontario, Andrew Vlahov, Andrew Gaze and Shane Heal totaled 77 points Sunday and Australia beat Puerto Rico 96-83 in the fifth place game at the World Championship of Basketball.
Australia (5-3) matched its best finish ever in the World Championship. It also finished fifth in 1982.
Vlahov, who played at Stanford, had 28 points, while Gaze, who played at Seton Hall and briefly in the NBA with the Washington Bullets, had 26 and Heal had 23, all but two from 3-point range.
Puerto Rico (3-5) trailed througout the game and closed to 75-69 with 7:25 to play. Gaze, the tournament's leading scorer at 23.8, hit a 3-pointer 30 seconds later and Puerto Rico was never closer than seven the rest of the way.
Heal was 7-for-10 from 3-point range as
Australia, led by Heal's 7-for-10, was 10-for-20 from 3-point range and also outrebounded Puerto Rico 37-22.
James Carter led Puerto Rico, which finished fourth in the 1990 World Championship, with 22 points. Jerome Mincy added 18.
Canada 104, China 76
At Hamilton, Ontario, Rick Fox and Joey Vickery each scored 20 points Sunday to lead Canada to a 104-76 victory over China in the game for seventh place at the World Championship of Basketball.
Canada (4-4) missed matching its best finish in a World Championship by one place. Only two host countries - the Philippines in 1978 and Argentina in 1990, which both finished eighth - fared worse in the standings.
China (2-6), which beat Brazil and Spain in the opening round, ended the tournament on a five-game losing streak with an average defeat of 29.2 points. Still, the eighth-place finish was China's best in three World Championship appearances.
China was within 75-63 with 8:53 to play, but Canada went on a 12-2 run, the first three baskets coming off steals, and it was never closer than 19 points the rest of the way.
Hu Weidong led China with 18 points, while Zheng Wu added 17.
Fox, who plays for the Boston Celtics, led Canada in scoring for the tournament, averaging 16.2 points per game.