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The Big Event // TIME FOR THE INEVITABLE

WHAT: Men's basketball gold-medal game, United States (7-0) vs. Yugoslavia (7-0).

WHEN: 10 tonight.

TV: NBC says it plans to show the game in its entirety.

U.S. STARTING LINEUP: Indefinite. Thursday against Australia, it was David Robinson at center, Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley at forward and Gary Payton and Mitch Richmond at guard. Shaquille O'Neal may start at center, and Reggie Miller may replace Richmond at shooting guard.

INJURY REPORT: Grant Hill, who missed the semifinal with a strained knee, is day-to-day.

ABOUT YUGOSLAVIA: The team is led by NBA players Vlade Divac and Predrag Danilovic, who combined for 19 points in a 66-58 semifinal victory over Lithuania. It also features two of the top European players, guard Aleksandar Djorjevic and forward Zeljko Rebraca.

Yugoslavia leads the Olympics in field-goal shooting (59 percent) and fewest points allowed per game (69). It has won its seven games by an average of 27 points. Its 96-point average is second only to the United States' 103.

Yugoslavia won a silver medal in 1988, but was banned from the 1992 Games by United Nations sanctions.

ABOUT THE UNITED STATES: The Americans have not dominated like the Dream Team of 1992. But that doesn't mean the U.S. team is in danger of settling for silver.

In all likelihood, the team is too deep and too talented to lose. Benchwarmers include Penny Hardaway, Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone and John Stockton.

Barring a catastrophe, the Americans won't be beaten. But U.S. coach Lenny Wilkens said the competition has been tougher this time _ and as early as 2000, some other nation may catch up to the Dream Team.

QUOTABLE: "I've seen them play quite a bit, and they play more of a pro style than any of the teams," Wilkens said of Yugoslavia. "They like to run themselves, and we hope they will."

_ SHARON GINN

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