Tuesday, September 03, 2002

United States 106, Russia 82

AP Basketball Writer

        INDIANAPOLIS — Paul Pierce had another one of his scoring blitzes Monday night, cementing his status as the best offensive player on the U.S. national team.

        Pierce made seven consecutive shots and scored 20 of his 27 points in the third quarter to lead the United States to a 106-82 victory over Russia.

        Pierce has led the Americans in scoring in all four of their games.

        The U.S. team hadn't looked all that special in its previous two games at the World Championships, with Germany keeping the game close for three quarters and China opening a big early lead. But this one was much more to the U.S. team's liking, and Pierce was the player who turned it into a rout.

        Pierce solidified his status as the U.S. team's go-to scorer, driving for three layups and scoring 10 of America's first 12 points of the second half. Pierce added consecutive 3-pointers later in the quarters for an 80-59 lead, then followed a tip by Ben Wallace with yet another 3 for an 85-61 edge.

        Against Germany on Friday, Pierce scored eight points in 46 seconds to break open a close game.

        His streak of seven straight baskets ended with 48 seconds left in the third when he had an airball from 3-point range, and he reacted with an embarrassed smile.

        Andre Miller added 18 points for the United States, which plays New Zealand on Tuesday and Argentina on Wednesday to complete the second round.

        Zakhar Pachoutine had 16 points to lead Russia, which was without its only NBA player as Andrei Kirilenko sat out with a left ankle injury.

        The U.S. team had another shooter at its disposal as Reggie Miller made his tournament debut after being sidelined during the first round with a sprained ankle. Miller made his first appearance with 2:13 left in the second quarter, coming in to a nice ovation after the U.S. team had opened a 50-38 lead.

        Miller committed a turnover the first time he touched the ball, throwing a bad pass, but he quickly redeemed himself. After a Russian player missed a layup on a 2-on-1 break, Miller grabbed the defensive rebound and then found himself open at the 3-point line. He made the shot just before the buzzer to give the Americans a 54-44 lead.

        When the second half began, Pierce made certain that Miller won't be making a bid for too many of his minutes at the shooting guard position.


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