U.S. 98, Brazil 75
ATLANTA (AP) _ With Oscar Schmidt as the main attraction and the Dream Team relegated to a sideshow, there still was no doubt who would dominate the scoreboard.
Schmidt, the most prolific scorer in international basketball history, required extra attention from the Americans Tuesday night. He slipped away from it just enough to score 26 points in his last game against the United States.
It hardly mattered as the U.S. team routed Brazil 98-75 to advance to the Olympic semifinals.
Schmidt had to deal with the physical defense of Scottie Pippen most of the night and freed himself enough to nearly reach his 28-point Olympic average.
``I’m happy they played hard against me, because that means they have respect for me. They put their best defenders on me, so that means they have respect for me,″ Schmidt said. ``The last time we played them we lost by 40-something, and this time we lost by 20-something, so I’m very happy.″
The United States improved its all-time Olympic record to 99-2 and moved into the semifinals to face Australia on Thursday.
Yugoslavia and Lithuania will play in the other semifinal.
Pippen, who has become the defensive stopper for the United States, played rough with Schmidt, especially in the second half when the 38-year-old forward managed only seven points.
``It did get a little more physical than it has in the past,″ Pippen said. ``The officials weren’t calling stuff and were letting us play, but it wasn’t as bad as it seemed.″
``Scottie Pippen really made Oscar work,″ U.S. coach Lenny Wilkens said. ``He’s a real great offensive player, he’s been a fabulous player for his career and a great asset to Brazil. I wanted to stop him, but I enjoy watching him play.″
Schmidt went to the bench with 9:27 left yelling at the referees and complaining about the Americans’ physical defense. But he returned with 3:59 left and scored the final basket of the game _ a runner from a tough angle on the right side over the outstretched arms of Hakeem Olajuwon.
``It went in, so it must have been a good shot,″ Olajuwon said.
But by then, the highlight for much of the crowd had already happened _ and Schmidt wasn’t it. Instead, the two loudest cheers were for the U.S. women’s gymnastics team, which appeared at center court at halftime, and Charles Barkley’s encore of the YMCA dance he first performed last Friday.
The U.S. team was led by Anfernee Hardaway with 14 points, Pippen with 13, Reggie Miller with 12 and Shaquille O’Neal with 11.
Schmidt shot 8-for-20 from the field, including 4-for-10 on 3-pointers, to lead Brazil.
``The next two games will be my goodbye and I will cry then,″ said Schmidt, who previously said this would be his last Olympics. ``I have to deal with the reality that I will never play for the gold medal, but I’m still proud.″
The Dream Team finished with only 11 dunks, but four of them came consecutively in a 90-second sequence midway through the second half. Gary Payton lobbed consecutive alley-oop passes to O’Neal, Miller had an uncontested jam and Pippen capped the run with a dunk off a steal by Miller.
Just like four years ago in Barcelona and three weeks ago in an exhibition game at Cleveland, Pippen drew the defensive assignment on Schmidt. But unlike the 1992 Olympics, when Schmidt shot just 6-for-30, it became apparent early that he had a better touch.
Schmidt pulled up for a 3-pointer on a fastbreak and banked in a 4-footer on another break in the first two minutes, giving Brazil a 7-2 lead. With the United States ahead 12-11, Schmidt caught a pass 16 feet away, held the ball over his head like he was ready to pass, then shot it without cocking his arms.
The ball went in, the crowd gasped and Brazil was ahead. Schmidt also had a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer on Brazil’s next possession to give his team its last lead, 16-15.
Pippen had seven consecutive points _ including a 3-pointer in Schmidt’s face and a putback on which he outjumped Schmidt _ in a 13-4 run that made it 28-20.
``They played us a lot better tonight, but we have a much better bench and our conditioning can withstand everything they can do,″ Pippen said.
Schmidt had 14 points when he went to the bench with 5:16 remaining in the half and Brazil trailing by six points, 35-29. The United States then outscored Brazil 14-3 to open a 17-point lead before Schmidt returned with 1:29 left in the half.
The lead was 16 points at halftime and grew to 26 just over four minutes later. The largest lead was 27 with 7:42 to play.
``It might have been in the back of our minds that it would be a cakewalk,″ Miller said. ``In the second half we turned on the engines a little bit.″