U.S. improves to 4-0 in exhibition games

Monday, August 14, 2006

SEOUL, South Korea -- Good news for the United States as the world championships approach: Carmelo Anthony is at full strength and the team is playing tough defense.

Both elements were evident Sunday in a 111-88 victory over Lithuania in a tuneup for the worlds, which begin Saturday in Sapporo, Japan. The Americans are 4-0 in exhibitions leading to the tournament.

Anthony hyperextended his knee during a win over Brazil last week. The Denver Nuggets forward scored 19 points against Lithuania, setting the tone with a slam in the opening minutes that drew a huge ovation.

Kristov Lavrinovic led Lithuania with 26 points. But Lithuania, ranked fourth in the world, hardly looked like the medal contender many expect it to be in Japan.

"Our game plan was to just keep the ball moving," said Anthony, who leads his team in scoring in the four games. "We know we can score from just about anywhere, so we don't have to wait for a fantastic shot."

Dwyane Wade added 14 points for the U.S., which placed seven players in double figures.

"I thought we played very good defense," U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Lithuania is a strong team and we were able to take them out defensively. I think we got better today by playing an outstanding team."

After an exhibition Tuesday against South Korea, the U.S. will head to Sapporo for its tournament opener against Puerto Rico.

Anthony, Wade, Hinrich, Shane Battier and Elton Brand started for the U.S. The Americans brought 14 players to Asia and must cut the roster to 12 before the worlds.

This latest performance was an impressive one for a team quickly adjusting to the wider lanes of international play. The United States finished sixth at the worlds in 2002 and third in 1998. The last time the Americans won the tournament was 1994.

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