Las Vegas The Dream Team comparisons, and the boasts of living up to them, were starting to return to U.S. basketball at the FIBA Americas tournament. And through two games, the United States looked worthy of them.
The Americans, who have gone without a major gold medal since the 2000 Olympics, had a day off Friday, the day after their 123-59 victory over the U.S. Virgin Islands. It was the most points they scored in this event since the famed 1992 team had 127 against Venezuela in the final game of that qualifier.
"They're that good," said former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson, who is coaching Mexico. "They're like the Dream Team that came with Magic and Bird and those guys. They have that kind of a chance to put the USA back where they belong on top of the map."
Only if they keep hitting from three-point range.
The Americans were 25-of-56 (45 percent) from behind the arc through two games, leading the tournament in a statistic where the U.S. has usually been closer to the bottom in recent years. They shot 31 percent in the 2004 Olympics, which was 10th in the 12-team field and a primary reason they came home with only a bronze medal.
But if they shoot threes as well as they did against the Virgin Islands, when they made 15 of 30, Carmelo Anthony said he can't see the Americans losing.
"I don't think so, especially when we space the court out like that," Anthony said.
The biggest difference now is the additions of Michael Redd and Mike Miller, two of the NBA's top three-point shooters. Redd hit half of his 14 attempts in the first two games, tying Anthony for the team scoring lead with 19.5 points per game. Miller has five threes, though he's only at 33 percent thus far.
"We are shooting pretty well right now," Miller said. "We got to continue to get better."
In their best all-around performance in Athens, the Americans were 12-of-22 from behind the arc in a quarterfinal victory over previously unbeaten Spain. They were horrible again in the semis, making three of 11 in a loss to Argentina.
Last year in the world championships, the Americans shot 14-of-27 from three-point range, a better percentage than they hit Thursday night, in a 113-73 rout of Australia in the round of 16.
"We just want to go out there and just prove everybody wrong," Anthony said.
The U.S. will meet Canada at 2 p.m. today in Vegas.