Team USA's drive to regain global basketball domination hit a bump in the road on Tuesday as Carmelo Anthony was injured in a narrow 90-86 win over a tough Brazilian team.
Despite a 16-point first-half lead, the US couldn't break the Brazilian zone defense after Denver Nuggets star Anthony went down late in the first half and the Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade fouled out two minutes into the second.
Brazil's quick side, led by Leandro Barbosa, Wellington Dos Santos and Jose Garcia, attacked the basket all night long, while a nimble defensive rotation made it difficult for the US to get their inside game going.
"It was a game of a lot of adversity for both teams," US coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "For them it was foul trouble, for us Carmelo Anthony was hurt, Dwayne Wade was in foul trouble and left the game. There was a lot of adversity and I thought both teams handled it pretty well."
Brazil's front line of Cleveland Cavalier Anderson Varejao, center Taigo Splitter and forward Guilherme Biovanonni dominated the boards with the Brazilians outrebounding the US 41 to 25.
But both Varejao and Splitter fouled out in the waning moments of the game when the crowd here at the Guangzhou Gymnasium began sensing an upset and began cheering wildly for the South Americans.
Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich was the unlikely hero, knocking down two technical free throws and giving the US the lead for good at 83-82 with 2:48 left in the game.
Free throws by Elton Brand, Hinrich and Joe Johnson and a baseline drive by Lebron James finished the scoring for the US.
Hinrich ended with 14 points, seven in the final four minutes.
"I definitely thought it was a tough game, you know, I think now we will take a different approach to how we play," Atlanta Hawks guard Joe Johnson said. "This was a great game for us, we needed a game like this. We needed to be tested tonight."
The US are aiming to regain their supremacy at the World Basketball Championships that open in Japan on August 19, following a disappointing sixth place finish four years ago in Indiana.
Despite a hyper-extended right knee, Anthony led all scorers with 16 points, while the Atlanta Hawks' Johnson had 12. James scored 11.
James' Cleveland Cavaliers teammate Varejao finished with 11 points and 16 rebounds for Brazil.
The game was mired by a lack of understanding of international rules on both sides with Varejao and Wade fouling out after receiving technical fouls, which count as personal fouls in the world game.
Brazil left the gymnasium immediately following the match, complaining about the officiating and refusing to grant interviews.
Five Brazil players scored in double figures including Phoenix Suns guard Barbosa and Alex Garcia both with 14.