Flashback: USA Aces First Olympic Test With 103-70 Victory Over Croatia in 1992
The game many had been waiting for finally arrived. The yet untested and unchallenged USA team was finally expected to be tested. After all, while the country of Croatia was new to international basketball, its players were not. New Jersey Nets standout Drazen Petrovic, Bostin Celtic Stojko Vrankovic, European standouts Toni Kucoc and Dino Radja were key members of Yugoslavia’s 1990 World Championship team.
Visibly up for the challenge, the U.S. squad started strongly, and in the end, the USA’s dominance was again underscored as the Dream Team managed a 33-point win, defeating Croatia 103-70.
While the Dream Team was oohing and aahing the crowd with its dazzling offensive moves, it was the USA’s defense that earned this victory.
With Croatia leading 6-5 and 18:44 to play in the first half, the U.S. began to make its push. Scoring eight consecutive points to take a 13-6 lead, the U.S. then went on a 19-7 scoring run that lifted its advantage to 32-13 with 7:53 to play in the half.
With the USA up 54-37 at the midway break, Croatia closed to within 13, 60-47 with just under 16 minutes to play, but a 12-1 U.S. scoring spurt put the game back out of reach.
The USA’s offense, which saw all 11 healthy players score, was paced by Michael Jordan’s 21 points and 20 more from Charles Barkley.
But it was not all good news for the U.S.
Magic Johnson suffered an injury early in the game that was later diagnosed as a strained muscle in his right knee, leaving his status as day-to-day.
While the USA’s 103 points and 33-point margin of victory were the smallest yet, the U.S. proudly pointed to its defense, which limited the high-scoring Croatian squad to just 70 points, while specifically holding KuKoc to just four points and Radja to 14.
“We were really ready to play tonight,” said Johnson. “We needed a gauge game to see how we are. We came out tonight knowing we had to play great defense because they had some great scorers and we couldn’t let all three (Petrovic, Kukoc, Radja) of them get off.”
“I think our numbers overwhelmed them a little bit,” said USA head coach Chuck Daly. “They still managed to hang around and get it to 13 in the second half. It’s very possible that we will be playing them again.”
“I think they gave us a good first half,” said Jordan. “But I felt that we were much stronger from a bench standpoint. We were a little bit deeper in terms of talent, and we kept throwing bodies at them. We did kind of wear them down. But they did challenge us out there early. When they got tired, we were able to overwhelm them with our defense and, well, our offense.”