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Wednesday, August 27, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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NBA

Notebook: U.S. knocks off Argentina to avenge loss from 2002

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Argentina couldn't do it again, not with Jermaine O'Neal taking a huge first step on the road to redemption.

With an improved United States team showing greater degrees of poise and talent down the stretch, the Americans avenged a defeat of a year ago by beating Argentina 94-86 yesterday in the second round of the FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

Fittingly for the U.S. team, the star was O'Neal — one of two U.S. players held over from last summer's team that finished a disappointing sixth at the FIBA World Championship.

O'Neal, who plays for the Indiana Pacers, scored 22 points and made one of the biggest plays of the game at the defensive end. He blocked a shot by Fabricio Oberto with 1:13 left — a play that led to a fast-break dunk by Toronto's Vince Carter for an 89-83 lead.

"Regardless of what happens, I'm always going to be marked in the record books as being on the first (U.S.) team to lose using NBA players," O'Neal said. "That doesn't matter to me anymore. My goal now, and I think the only way I can see redemption, is to win the gold medal in the Olympics."

The United States (6-0) improved its all-time record in qualifiers to 22-0. The Americans are 64-3 when using professional players in international tournaments, all three of the losses coming last summer.

Guard Ray Allen of the Sonics scored six points in 19 minutes for the U.S. team.

Former Sonic Ruben Wolkowyski scored 11 points in 26 minutes for Argentina (4-2).

The score was tied 74-74 with 6:30 left before the U.S. team closed the game by scoring 20 of the final 32 points.

Notes

Tracy McGrady of the Orlando Magic sat out the game because of a back injury and said he likely would not play in the remainder of the tournament.

• Prosecutors in the sexual-assault case against Kobe Bryant said that allowing cameras in the courtroom during the Los Angeles Laker's Oct. 9 preliminary hearing in Eagle, Colo., would violate state-court rules.

• Toronto Raptors center Eric Montross, 31, is retiring because of a lingering foot injury. He hasn't played since breaking a bone in his left foot while stepping over a child safety gate at his home in the spring of 2002.

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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