SAPPORO (FIBA World Championship
) - Carmelo Anthony stole the limelight as United States got their FIBA World Championship off to a winning start by beating Group D rivals Puerto Rico on Saturday with dominating display in the second half.
The Americans, who were looking to revenge their humiliating defeat at the hands of Julio Toro's team at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, finished with six players in double figures in their 111-100 triumph in Sapporo.
Anthony, who gave the Americans the lead for good midway through the second quarter with a lay-up, finished with 21 points, and was eight of 11 from two-point range.
Puerto Rico point guard Carlos Arroyo was the engine but his game-high 23 points proved to no avail as his team were unable to break Mike Krzyzewski's side.
"Overall, my guys had the game in control and we had energy, we went on a couple of runs," said Coach K.
"We've given a lot of open shots today. We knew that in this first round games we had to get better and we had to get adjusted to the style of play now let's get on to China."
The Islanders, who were given a wild card to compete in Japan, kept their cool early on and despite conceding seven turnovers they went into the second quarter with a 24-23 lead thanks to a Peter Ramos lay-up.
Both teams took their turn in taking the lead and it wasn't until Anthony's two pointer midway through the second quarter that propelled the Americans to pull away.
Jose Marcus Johnson caught fire from the arc with two three-pointers giving the Americans a 57-49 lead before Arroyo's jump shot reduced the deficit to 57-51 at the break.
The Americans went on a 12-2 run at the start of the third period with Anthony and LeBron James delighting the crowd before Elias Ayuso stopped the rot with a three pointer to keep his team in the game, 71-56.
Toro's men reacted with seven consecutive points five minutes into the quarter to reduce the deficit 71-63 but they still went into the final quarter trailing 87-74.
Puerto Rico's failure to score in the first two minutes of the final quarter allowed the Americans to increase their lead to a whopping 96-74 but it was still not over.
Carmelo Lee's three pointer saw Puerto Rico cut down their deficit to -9 with two minutes left on clock but Filiberto Riera's turnover with 1minute 20seconds and the score at 107-96 brought to an end any hopes of a comeback.
Toro was satisfied with his team's performance but admits there is still room for improvement.
"We know that we have to improve and we know in which areas we have to do so," he said.
"My team had many moments of lucidity during this game and we were able to keep dancing with the Americans for a long time. In the end, their talent,strength and speed made the difference." By Cindy Garcia-Bennett