- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 13, 2008

BEIJING | LeBron James simply knocked aside overmatched Angola players like a schoolyard bully, going wherever he wanted.

Now come the teams that can push back.

Dwyane Wade scored 19 points, James dominated the game with his size and strength on both ends and the U.S. men’s basketball team wrapped up the easy portion of its schedule with a 97-76 victory Tuesday night.

On Thursday, the Americans (2-0) face Greece, the team that stunned them two years ago in the semifinals of the world championships. The Greeks are physical, and they should provide the first test of these games for the United States.

“I’m expecting this game right here to be tough,” U.S. forward Carmelo Anthony said. “They know that we’re coming back to redeem ourselves, and I’m pretty sure that they watch us a lot.”

Dwight Howard added 14 points and James finished with 12 for the Americans, who had another rough night from 3-point range but don’t appear to be stoppable in the open court. Wade was perfect from the field in Beijing until missing in the third quarter.

Though Anthony said the Greece game “has been circled on my calendar for about two years now,” James said it wasn’t hard to concentrate on Angola.

“We’ve got veterans. We’re preparing ourselves. Every night we’re showcasing what we’ve been doing the last three years getting ready for this moment,” he said. “So we can’t afford to go out and be lackadaisical.”

The United States improved to 4-0 against Angola, starting with the Dream Team’s Olympic debut in 1992. That romp is best remembered for Charles Barkley’s elbow to an unsuspecting Angolan player in a 116-48 victory.

Carlos Morais scored 24 points for 0-2 Angola, which went down almost as easily this time around. The final margin was much closer thanks to some concentration lapses by the United States in the second half.

“We were not looking ahead. I thought we played with really good energy in spurts and played some really terrific basketball,” U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Our goal wasn’t to win by a certain margin. It was to really work hard and keep up our pressure, and then once that was done, we just worked on a few other things. The main thing was just to keep some consistency, so overall I was very pleased with tonight.”

After the Greece game, the Americans face world champion Spain, which also is 2-0 after rallying to beat China in overtime behind 29 points from Pau Gasol.

Long before this rout started, the Americans already were looking ahead.

Krzyzewski and his staff were seated behind the baseline about 5 1/2 hours earlier for a look at the Greeks, who shut down Germany over the final three quarters while pulling away for an 87-64 victory.

Greece stunned the United States 101-95 two years ago in the semifinals of the world championship in Japan. This U.S. team is deeper, and James is a whole lot stronger.

James hadn’t done much offensively midway through the second quarter when he made his presence felt on the other end, jumping so high to block Felizardo Ambrosio’s shot that it looked more like a volleyball spike, with James glaring back at the fallen Ambrosio as the ball went out of bounds.

In other games Tuesday:

Spain 85, China 75 (OT)

Pau Gasol scored 29 points to lead the world champions over Yao Ming and the host team in overtime.

Spain, which finished out of the medals at Athens in 2004, remains unbeaten in Group B with four points and next faces Germany on Thursday.

Greece 87, Germany 64

Also in Group B, Vasileios Spanoulis and a dogged Greek defense curbed Dirk Nowitzki in a win over Germany.

Lithuania 99, Iran 67

In Group A, Linas Kleiza scored 22 points to lead unbeaten Lithuania to a victory over the Asian champions. Sarunas Jasikevicius added 20 points, while Hamed Ehadadi had 21 points for Iran, which is winless after two games.

Croatia 85, Russia 78

Marko Popovic scored 22 points to lead Croatia over the European champions.

Andrei Kirilenko led Russia with 18.



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