U.S. rout Finland, Spain's Gasol shines
By Zoran Milosavljevic
(Reuters) - A second-string U.S. team started their basketball World Cup title defense with a 114-55 mauling of Finland on Saturday, while Pau Gasol also lit up the opening day with 33 points and eight rebounds for hosts Spain in a 90-60 victory over Iran.
European champions France slipped to a 65-63 defeat by Brazil while Croatia had a close shave against the Philippines, scratching out an 81-78 win in overtime.
The United States, with their top players from the NBA declining to play in the 24-nation event, struggled early on to impose themselves on the Finns, who were roared on by some 8,000 of their noisy fans at Bilbao’s Bizkaia Arena.
However, the crowd fell silent as the athletic U.S. team found their stride and raced out to a 60-18 halftime lead.
The Americans confined Finland to a handful of free throws from late in the first quarter until early in the third, while hitting three-pointers and converting fast breaks at the other end almost at will.
Klay Thompson netted 18 points and center Anthony Davis added 17, with all 12 U.S. players scoring in a one-sided contest.
“We had a pretty good first quarter but we felt we could take it to another level,” guard James Harden told ESPN television.
In a repeat of the 2010 final on Sunday, the United States take on Turkey, who overcame a 12-point second-half deficit to beat New Zealand 76-73 thanks to 16 points from center Oguz Savas. Continued...