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The Americans have plenty to work on before worrying about that, after needing a huge night from Durant and 31 minutes from Billups, the old man of the team at 33 who had their only basket in the final 6:50.
"I knew that in the first half that this was going to be a fourth-quarter game, a last two- or three-minute game, and I was preparing myself to just be ready," Billups said.
Nowhere was the difference between this team and its predecessor more apparent than in the matchup with Barbosa. When the teams last met, in their 2007 Olympic qualifier, Barbosa entered as the tournament's leading scorer before Bryant led a defensive effort that held him to four points on 1-of-7 shooting in an easy U.S. win.
There's no defenders like Bryant here, and Barbosa took advantage in the first quarter by making two 3-pointers and scoring eight points. Brazil made 12 of its first 16 shots in the period and its first four 3-pointers, streaks that were snapped when Barbosa was just short on a half-court heave at the buzzer, leaving them with a 28-22 lead.
Brazil extended its lead to eight early in the second quarter and Splitter's dunk sent the Brazilians to the half with a 46-43 advantage.
The Americans finally grabbed the lead midway through the third, extending it to 61-55 after consecutive baskets by Durant. Barbosa scored the final four points of the period, though, and pulled Brazil within two heading to the fourth.
The crowd grew solidly behind the underdogs, cheering for Brazil baskets and booing loudly when a small "U-S-A!" chant broke out in the fourth.
Brazil is coached by Ruben Magnano, who guided Argentina to victories over the U.S. in the 2002 worlds and 2004 Olympics, when the Argentines won gold. He nearly authored another upset, as players on both teams thought Barbosa's shot was going in.
"I had Durant right in front of me, I couldn't see," Huertas said. "I was in the corner but I saw the ball tipped on both sides of the rim and went out. It was a big disappointment."
And for the Americans, a big relief.
"I thought it was in, to tell you the truth," Rose said. "Thank God it came out."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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