YU_SPORT_1: U.S. Men to Face Yugoslavia for Gold Medal

U.S. Men to Face Yugoslavia for Gold Medal

Sport (anonymous2@uunet.uu.net)
Fri, 02 Aug 1996 07:55:07 +0000


02.Aug 96.

Dana: Fri, 02 Aug 1996 07:55:07 +0000
Na temu: U.S. Men to Face Yugoslavia for Gold Medal


August 2, 1996

U.S. Men to Face Yugoslavia for Gold Medal

Olympics Guide
* Men's Basketball


[A] TLANTA -- The strange Olympic basketball
tournament, a passionate series of games
interrupted by loud exhibitions starring the Dream
Team, retained its split personality Thursday
night. The United States, after some nervous
moments created by the hot shooting of Australia,
calmly collected its 100th victory in 102 Olympic
basketball games by defeating the Boomers, 101-73.

Yugoslavia, prevented from competing [Olympics]
four years ago because of sanctions
resulting from the Balkan conflict, reached the
gold medal game for the third time in six Olympic
tournaments with a 66-58 victory over Lithuania.

"Even if we lose," Vlade Divac of Yugoslavia said
about the gold medal game, "we are satisfied that
we played in the final."

Charles Barkley led the United States with 24
points, hitting 7 of 7 shots from the field.

Australia, which will play for its first
basketball medal when it meets Lithuania in the
third-place game Saturday night, gave the crowd of
34,069 at the Georgia Dome the rarest of
sensations during this tournament -- a temporary
but unmistakable feeling of urgency.

Without Grant Hill, who missed the game because of
a strained left knee, the United States took a
10-point halftime lead. But the Americans fell
behind by four points with 7 minutes 44 seconds to
go in the half when Australia scored on its fifth
consecutive possession. Shane Heal, the guard best
known here before the games for his angry
confrontation with Barkley during an exhibition
game, made his team's third three-point shot
within a span of 1:33.

The Americans, who have appeared uninspired if
efficient through nearly all of this tournament,
responded with one of their most forceful
stretches. They scored on 6 of 9 possesions, a
13-2 run that included eight points by Shaquille
O'Neal, six on emphatic dunks.

The Yugoslavia players raced together at the final
buzzer, embracing tightly at center court as the
Lithuanians walked silently away without a
handshake. Divac stepped away from the celebration
to reach out for Arvydas Sabonis, his National
Basketball Association rival.

They understood that barring the most unlikely
victory in Olympic basketball history, they were
celebrating a silver medal. That made no
difference to the Yugoslavia players, not after
the International Olympic Committee sanctions
against their nation prevented them from playing
in the 1992 Games in Barcelona, Spain.

"A lot of players cried," Divac said. "We
practiced three months. They told us just before
we don't have a chance to play. I understand the
war, but let us compete."

Lithuania's bitter disappointment came from a
dreadful final 11 minutes. There were just two
Lithuania field goals in the last 11:25, a pair of
three-point shots by former the Seton Hall player
Arturas Karnisovas, the only field goals he would
have on an eight-point night. The second, from the
right side, gave Lithuania a 54-51 lead with 5:12
to go. From that point, Lithuania scored on just
two of its final eight possessions and was
outscored by 15-4.

Predrag Danilovic scored eight of his 19 points in
the last 4:10. Alexander Djordjevic, who scored 16
points, hit his most important basket of the night
on a drive through dense traffic with 3:30, plus a
foul shot for a 58-56 lead.

Rimas Kurtinaitis, who led Lithuania with 22
points, made two foul shots to tie the score at
58-58 with 3:22 to play. Those were the last
points Lithuania would score. Savonis, who scored
14 points with 13 rebounds, lost his balance and
stepped out of bounds along the right baseline as
he was defended by Divac with less than two
minutes to play and his team within two points.

Danilovic then scored the last six points -- a
pair of foul shots with 1:19 to go, another with
1:02 to go, then a drive from the left baseline
with 32 seconds to play after Yugoslavia had
spread the floor. After a quick missed shot,
Lithuania, still down by only eight, did not
attempt to foul in the final seconds.

The Lithuania players sobbed four years ago when
they won a bronze medal by defeating the Unified
Team. Thursday night, as Lithuania left the court,
the player's bodies and faces showed
dissatisfaction even as they faced the possibility
of the same result.

And as the Yugoslavs considered the prospects of a
meeting with the United States, Divac did not seem
to know what to think.

"You know what?" Divac said, gesturing to his
teammates as they left the floor. "These 12 guys,
we believe."

Divac also said this about his next opponent: "I'm
99.9 percent they're going to beat us."

Copyright 1996 The New York Times Company