Dwyane Wade scored 20 points and the US clinched a berth in the playoff rounds of the World Basketball Championship with a 114-95 victory over Slovenia yesterday.
The US collection of NBA stars improved to 3-0 in round-robin play, matching 2004 Olympic runner-up Italy atop Group D ahead of their meeting tonight to decide a top seed in the knockout rounds.
LeBron James added 19 points while Elton Brand scored 16 and Carmelo Anthony contributed 14 for the US squad.
The US are trying to reclaim the global throne in the US-born sport, having finished a shameful sixth at the 2002 worlds and settling for third at the 2004 Olympics despite its array of elite NBA talent.
Slovenia boasted plenty of NBA talent as well, including New Jersey forward Bostjan Nachbar, San Antonio Spurs guard Beno Udrih, Toronto center Radoslav Nesterovic and Charlotte center Primoz Brezec.
Slovenia stayed close to the US team until a 23-7 run in the second quarter brought the NBA greats a double-digit lead for good. LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony each scored six points in the run while Chris Paul added five.
Fast break slam dunks from US tri-captains Wade, James and Anthony set the tone by the middle of the second quarter, although Slovenia pushed the deep US side to sustain a high level with late flurries to shrink the final margin.
A 14-2 Slovenia run late in the fourth quarter trimmed the US lead, once 29 points, as low as 105-94 before the US defense stiffened.
Sani Becirovic of Italy's Bologna led Slovenia with 18 points.
Lithuania 106, Qatar 65
AFP, HAMAMATSU, Japan
European giants Lithuania finally came good yesterday, humbling Qatar 106-65 on the back of 20 points from Ksystof Lavrinovic to secure a vital win.
Two close losses in a row coming into the game had given Lithuania plenty to think about and they came out firing on all cylinders, with big centers Lavrinovic and his twin brother Darius doing the damage.
Darius contributed 12 points while Denver Nugget Linas Kleiza added 14.
Abdulrahman Saad Ali top scored with 20 for Qatar, the Asian championship bronze medalists who are now 0-3 and in real danger of elimination from the competition.
Lithuania's hopes remain alive but they face tough battles against Australia on today and Brazil tomorrow in their late drive to make the knockout rounds in Saitama.
The win was a much-needed shot-in-the-arm for the perennial favorite.
The defensive frailties evident in their earlier Group C losses to Greece and Turkey evaporated yesterday against a Qatari side looking tired and devoid of ideas.
The European powerhouse immediately rolled onto the offensive to take a vice-like grip of a game they had to win, ending the first quarter 31-11.
They continued where they left off in the second, scoring a 15-0 run at one point as the hapless Qataris floundered to finish the frame 60-28 behind.
The third ended 78-51 to a Lithuania side boasting talent such as Chicago Bull Darius Songalia and former New Orleans Hornet Arvydas Macijauskas.
The magic 100 mark was broken by Mindaugas Zukauskas with a jump shot 2:12 from the buzzer.
Qatar face an uphill battle for survival with Turkey and Australia still to play.
Greece 72, Australia 69
AFP, HAMAMATSU, Japan
A three-pointer from Nikos Zisis with 2 seconds left on the clock handed European champions Greece a nailbiting 72-69 win over Australia yesterday.