posted on Aug, 10 2004 @ 09:25 PM
ISTANBUL, Turkey -- After awakening to news of bombings in this ancient city, the U.S. Olympic basketball team decided to play on.
And by the time the Americans finished an 80-68 victory over Turkey in front of a jeering and whistling crowd, they pronounced themselves ready for
Athens -- but still jittery from the events of an anxious day.
The Americans' final Olympic tuneup was similar to many others during an up-and-down tour through Europe. They were unable to dominate an opponent
that figured to be vastly overmatched, but they got the job done in the end.
What made this day different was a major off-the-court event that tested their focus.
The team learned early in the morning that bombs had exploded at two tourist hotels and a fuel depot a few miles from their hotel, but team and U.S.
government officials reassured them it would be safe to go ahead with the game.
"I don't know that everybody is absolutely confident and secure with everything, but they said everything would be fine, so you have to keep going
on," Tim Duncan said.
And so they did. After failing to shake Turkey for three quarters, the U.S. team hit its stride in the fourth quarter -- but not before the crowd gave
them an earful.
The play that turned the fans against them came when LeBron James swiped at the ball and hit Turkey guard Ibrahim Kutluay in the eye. Kutluay, who
scored 26 points, lay writhing on the floor before walking off. He eventually returned.
Another Turkish player went down moments later, and the whistles and shrieks from the crowd reached earsplitting levels whenever the Americans had the