SAPPORO, Japan -- After the United States whipped Slovenia, 114-95, last night, LeBron James was asked if he would guarantee a FIBA world championship.
``No way," James said with a chuckle. ``It's too far away."
But after three double-digit victories, the idea of the United States winning its first world championships since 1994 isn't far-fetched. The United States has won its first three Group D games -- against Puerto Rico, China, and Slovenia -- by an average of 20.3 points. It hasn't trailed after halftime.
The Americans face their sternest test in group play tonight against Italy, which improved to 3-0 with a 64-56 comeback victory over Senegal yesterday.
``We're improving every game," forward Shane Battier said. ``If we can continue to play the defense we've shown in stretches for longer stretches, we're going to be in very good shape for this championship."
The victory over Slovenia clinched a trip to the second round, which was seen as a foregone conclusion.
Dwyane Wade had 20 points to lead the United States in scoring for the second game in a row. Wade is the team's top scorer, averaging 19.7 points per game.
James added 19 points, Elton Brand 16, and Carmelo Anthony 14 for the Americans, who shot 56 percent from the floor.
Sani Becirovic scored 18 points to lead Slovenia, which had five players in double figures.
Defense and 3-point shooting helped the United States blow the game open. Three-point shooting had been one of Team USA's few flaws in the first two games. The Americans shot 33 percent from beyond the arc against Puerto Rico and 30 percent against China. Last night, their long-range shots finally started to fall. The United States finished 10 for 20 (50 percent). Battier went 3 for 3 from beyond the arc and James and Antawn Jamison each hit 2 of 4.