Tim Duncan had fouled out, Allen Iverson was playing with a broken thumb, and Greece had just passed the ball inside with a chance to pull within two points with 18 seconds left.
Lamar Odom defended the play perfectly, holding his hand steady and high and getting a piece of Dimitris Pipanikoulaou’s layup attempt. Odom, playing despite severe dehydration, rebounded the miss and made two free throws to lock up the U.S. team’s 77-71 victory Tuesday night in its second game of the Olympics.
In a much closer contest than expected, the Americans bounced back from their embarrassing opening loss to Puerto Rico and avoided dropping to 0-2, which would have matched their loss total from the previous 68 years at the Summer Games.
The big plays down the stretch came from Odom and Carlos Boozer after Duncan fouled out and Iverson cooled off following a strong start. The Americans didn’t have a great game, but that didn’t matter much to them.
They needed a win and they got one.