US Slaughters China in Men’s Basketball Opener!

Dwyane Wade of the U.S. slam dunks against China during their Group B men's basketball game at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

Dwyane Wade of the U.S. slam dunks against China during their Group B men's basketball game at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

For a while, it was a game, even as it was more than that. With George W. Bush in the stands along with thousands of passionate Chinese fans, the United States began its attempt to take back international basketball supremacy at the 2008 Olympics with a 101-70 victory over a game but limited Chinese team.

Early, the signature moment was Yao blocking a Kobe Bryant shot, in a moment that will presumably be reproduced on roughly 100-million posters to be distributed throughout China within one week’s time. The moments from later on – such as when the 6-foot-3 Deron Williams climbed the 7-foot-6 Yao and, despite missing the dunk, put the giant flagbearer on his behind – is less likely to make the state media here.

The game was expected to be the most watched basketball game in history, with an estimated one billion viewers, and it was closer than the final score indicated for long stretches. With China hitting shots and not looking too out of place, midway through the second quarter the score was tied at 29.

That was not going to last, obviously – not with the Americans pressuring China’s weaker guards, and turning turnovers into dunks. But for a moment, the impossible thought flickered: Good lord, what if this was a close game?

It wasn’t, of course. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in particular played with a feverish level of intensity, and the Americans kept coming in waves. As expected, the result was a blowout.

But it was not a flawless performance, and this edition of what used to the Dream Team is always under the microscope. The U.S. showed what American teams have always showed – when they get their jet-fueled athletes out on the fast break, they are something close to unstoppable, and the highlight reels will have no shortage of material. And when they get into a half-court set that requires spot-up shooting and the knitting together of team-wide passing, they struggle.

At halftime, the U.S. was just 1-for-12 from three-point range, which meant they had hit as many long-range bombs as the 7-foot-6 Yao. Their half court scoring was more often one-on-one forays by one of their many scoring geniuses – Wade, Kobe, or LeBron – than it was the result of ball movement and a team offense.

That was not enough to keep the game a game, though. In their quest to win America’s first international title since the Olympic gold in 2000, the U.S. did not stumble for long at all.

James finished with 18 points, six rebounds and four assists, while Wade scored a team-high 19 on perfect 7-for-7 shooting. Toronto Raptors forward Chris Bosh, whom some observers expect to supplant Orlando star Dwight Howard as the team’s most used big man – Howard’s free-throw shooting and defense are below par – delivered nine points and a team-high eight rebounds.

Yao, meanwhile, was predictably swarmed, and scored just nine points. But as he left the game for good with China trailing by 34 with 4:45 to go, he received an ovation, and thrust his fist in the air.

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~ by Digory Kirke on August 10, 2008.

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