U.S. edge Brazil as Slovenia win Balkan derby

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The United States stretched their perfect world championship start to three wins out of three on Monday but only after they were pushed to the limit by a desperately unlucky Brazilian team.

The U.S. team, led by coach Mike Krzyzewski, jumped for joy to celebrate their 70-68 win after the Brazilians, who led 46-43 at halftime, missed two opportunities in the dying seconds to send the game into overtime.

Argentina also notched up their third successive win with a 91-70 rout of Angola, while Slovenia beat Balkan neighbors Croatia 91-84 in a rollercoaster derby in which each team sank 11 three-pointers.

Serbia drubbed Jordan 112-69 on the back of 21 points each from forwards Marko Keselj and Dusan Savanovic, Australia thrashed Germany 78-43 and Iran enjoyed their first world championship win with a 71-58 defeat of Tunisia.

After two easy wins in the opening two days, the U.S. showed first signs of nerves as the battling Brazilians sank seven three-pointers in the first half, with Kevin Durant scoring 19 points to keep the tournament favorites afloat.

It became a physical, low-scoring contest in the second half as both sides started misfiring from long range and while Durant finished with a game-high 27 points and 10 rebounds, it was a lay-up by Chauncey Billups that spared the U.S. their blushes.

Billups had 15 points, fellow guard Derrick Rose added 11 and Los Angeles Lakers forward Lamar Odom scored eight to go with nine rebounds.

PASSIONATE SUPPORT

Slovenia, with a population of just two million, are the smallest nation taking part in the 24-team event but have the biggest visiting fans contingent and their passionate support spurred on their side against the Croats.

"Our vociferous fans gave us the wind in our sails we needed to get going and play more aggressively," Slovenian forward Bostjan Nachbar said.

"They were magnificent and we now have to keep up this momentum to finish runners-up in our preliminary pool."

Coach Memi Becirovic added: "We had a team talk at halftime, I lectured the players with some strong words and also told them after the game to keep their feet on the ground.

"We haven't achieved anything yet because our ambitions in this tournament are very high."

Jaka Lakovic and Uros Slokar scored 15 points each for Slovenia and Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic added 14 as the trio outweighed an excellent individual performance by Croatia's Roko-Leni Ukic, who finished with 20 points.

Hamed Haddadi, the first Iranian player to feature in the NBA when he joined the Memphis Grizzlies in 2008, led his team to victory over the Tunisians with 23 points and 13 rebounds.

Iran, who play the United States on Wednesday, had never previously qualified for the finals and won a tight affair in front of a 12,500 crowd after Mehdi Kamrani added 15 points while Arsalan Kazemi chipped in 14 and seven rebounds.

Argentina center Luis Scola was the day's top individual performer with 32 points and eight rebounds against the Angolans and Carlos Delfino added 22 in a one-sided contest.

(Reporting by Zoran Milosavljevic in Belgrade; editing by Justin Palmer)