Carmelo Anthony scored 21 points and LeBron James added 15 to lead the US past Puerto Rico 111-100 yesterday in a Group D opener at the World Basketball Championships.
Anthony even tried to make a contribution while on the bench in the rout by the US collection of NBA stars, but all he received was a technical foul for his trouble.
Puerto Rico lost a rebound out of bounds near the US bench seven minutes into the first quarter and Anthony, who had been taken out of the game but who was standing in the vicinity, made the inbounds pass to resume play.
It took Greek referee Stavros Douvis a few seconds to sort out that an ineligible player had made the toss, but when he did he called a technical foul on the US bench and Arroyo's two free throws lifted Puerto Rico level at 17-17.
US coach Mike Krzyzewski made certain his team knew that no more casual clowning around would be tolerated.
"Let's go. Let's quit [screwing] around," the irate coach yelled at his bench moments after the incident.
Peter Ramos hit an inside basket at the buzzer to give Puerto Rico a 24-23 lead after the first quarter.
Anthony scored five points in a 10-2 US run midway into the second quarter that gave the US squad a 42-38 lead and the Americans never lost the edge again on their way to a 57-51 half-time lead.
James sparked a 12-2 run to open the second half, capping the spurt with a pair of baskets as the US team seized a 69-53 lead and Puerto Rico never climbed within seven points again while the US lead grew as large as 96-74.
Orlando Magic guard Carlos Arroyo led Puerto Rico with 23 points.
germany 81 japan 70
Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki pumped in 27 points as favorites Germany struggled to beat hosts Japan 81-70 yesterday in their World Basketball Championship opener.
After opening up a 34-20 lead in the first period, Germany were narrowly outscored by Asia's number-five team in the second and third quarters, Japan pulling within 66-56 entering the fourth quarter before falling short.
"They never gave up. They kept fighting. We expected them to be very motivated but we were impressed with how they made our life difficult," Germany coach Dirk Bauermann said. "They were very mobile and made very good three-point shots," he said of an opposing team where players were 5cm shorter on average.
Nowitzki, the NBA all-star forward, scored 15 points in the opening period of the Group B game, powering a German team that is aiming for a better medal than their bronze from 2002.
Playing before a partisan crowd of 10,000 at the Green Arena, he hit six field goals, including a three-point jumper from the perimeter, and a free throw before going to the bench in the final minute of the first period.
Nowitzki came back onto the court halfway through the second quarter and pulled Germany out of a scoring doldrums against a spirited Asian side with five points to give Germany a 50-37 half-time lead.
Japan trimmed Germany's lead to eight points before Mithat Demirel's two free throws ended the quarter at 66-56.
The two sides went tit for tat in the final period with Nowitzki resting in the first four minutes. He hit two more baskets before retreating to the bench with the Germans comfortably ahead at 79-64.
Australia 83 brazil 77
An inexperienced Australia stunned Brazil with a gritty 83-77 victory here yesterday in their opening Group C game of the World Basketball Championship.