Sunday, July 18, 1999

U.S. trails early but wins by 31

AP Basketball Writer

        SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — With one uncommonly awesome dunk over Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan, 19-year-old Andres Nocioni gave Argentina a basketball highlight to last a generation.

        Nocioni had the most impressive moment — he dubbed it “El Chapu Dunk” — and Argentina even held a brief lead. Everything else, however, went the way of the United States in a 103-72 victory Saturday night in the Olympic qualifying tournament.

        Garnett scored 21 points, Tim Hardaway made five 3-pointers and scored 20, Duncan had 14 and Vin Baker, Jason Kidd and Allan Houston added 11 apiece.

        Miami's Wally Szczerbiak scored four points but was 0-for-3 on 3-point tries. He's 1-for-8 for the tourney.

        The Americans trailed for the first time in this tournament when Argentina took a 5-4 lead with 17:32 left in the first half. From there, the United States used runs of 8-0, 16-0 and 10-3 to take a 30-point halftime lead.

        The highlight of the second half was the dunk by Nocioni, who drove around Garnett on the baseline and went under the basket for a reverse slam over the outstretched arms of the two 7-footers.

        The crowd went wild, giving Nocioni an extended standing ovation. Even Garnett and Duncan appreciated the move, smiling broadly as they walked off the court during the ensuing timeout.

        “He might make the NBA off that dunk, you never know,” Garnett said. “Everybody has moments in their life that make them, and I hope that was his moment that puts him on the map.”

        Said Duncan: “That made his day, made his week, made his life.”

        Nocioni tried to dunk over Garnett one more time just before the final buzzer, but Garnett rejected the shot and committed a foul.

        “I couldn't believe they called that,” Garnett said.

        The two smiled and slapped hands before Nocioni, who plays professionally in Argentina, made one of two free throws for the final margin.

        After the game, Nocioni and his teammates oohed and aahed as a videotape of the dunk was replayed for them.

        “I will take this as a memory forever for my sports career,” said Nocioni, whose nickname is Chapu. “People get pleasure watching this type of basketball game, and if I did something so people can enjoy basketball, I'll be very happy.”

        Garnett seemed a tad embarrassed to be on the wrong end of the play.

        “In the field of dunking, you dunk on and you get dunked on. It was good for the crowd, so I thought it was good for the game of basketball. He gained respect,” Garnett said. “He got his highlight, but I told him the next time I would try to break his wrist.”

        Argentina also had the first four-point play of the tournament against the Americans on the play immediately after Nocioni's dunk. That cut the Americans' lead to 72-40 early in the second half. Garnett followed with a dunk, one of his four, and Hardaway had a 3-pointer to increase the lead to 37.

        The United States reached 100 points on a jumper by Houston with 2:04 left.

        Argentina's one-point lead early in the game represented the first time the United States had trailed in the tournament. In its first two games, the United States led for 79 minutes, 12 seconds and was tied for the other 48 seconds.

        Argentina's 31-point margin of defeat was the lowest by any of the Americans' three opponents. The U.S. team beat Uruguay by 46 and Canada by 34.

        Tom Gugliotta did not play because of pain from a broken nose.

        In an early game, Canada defeated Uruguay 80-62. In late games, it was Puerto Rico-Panama and Venezuela-Dominican Republic.

        ARGENTINA (72) — Sconchini 0-2 0-0 0, Scola 1-6 0-0 2, Fernandes 3-6 1-3 8, Montecchia 2-4 1-1 6, Espil 5-8 1-1 14, Ginobila 2-7 2-2 6, Nocioni 2-6 3-4 7, Victoriano 3-7 0-0 9, Aispuria 0-1 0-0 0, Gutierrez 3-6 0-0 6, Sucatzky 3-6 0-0 8, Palladino 3-7 0-0 6. Totals 27-67 8-11 72.

        UNITED STATES (103) — Duncan 7-8 0-0 14, Kidd 5-10 1-2 11, Houston 5-8 0-0 11, Garnett 9-13 3-4 21, Payton 4-6 1-1 9, Smith 0-3 0-0 0, Hardaway 7-10 1-2 20, Baker 4-5 3-3 11, Szczerbiak 2-6 0-0 4, Brand 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 44-73 9-12 103. Argentina ....... 2745— 72 United States ....... 5746—103

        3-Point goals—Argentina 10-22 (Espil 3-4, Victoriano 3-4, Sucatzky 2-4, Fernandes 1-2, Montecchia 1-2, Ginobila 0-2, Palladino 0-2, Sconchini 0-1, Nocioni 0-1), US 6-14 (Hardaway 5-8, Houston 1-1, Kidd 0-1, Payton 0-1, Scczerbiak 0-3). Fouled out— None. Rebounds—Argentina 26 (Fernandes 6), US 45 (Garnett 10). Assists— Argentina 10 (Sucatzky, Victoriano 3), US 25 (Payton 7). Total fouls—Argentina 11, US 18. A—5,000.


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