Redeem Team USA gives Bush reason to leave early against Yao's China
( dpa ) - The United States basketball team began its quest to make up for the disappointment of failing to win gold in Athens four years ago by comprehensively outplaying host nation China 101- 70 in its opening game at the Beijing Olympic Basketball Gymnasium.
Packed with NBA stars such as the league's Most Valuable Player, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Camel Anthony and Dwayne Wade, the Americans simply proved a class above Yao Ming's side.
The result means the Americans sit top of Group B while China hold up the six-team table.
US President George W Bush, who was accompanied by wife Laura, and his father, former President George H W Bush, was on hand to cheer on the win and took his seat shortly before the arrival of the US team in the sold-out 18,000 capacity arena.
As seemed appropriate, national hero and China flag bearer Yao was the first to score, landing a three-pointer for China, but that was probably the high point of the evening for the home crowd.
The first quarter was nip and tuck with the team's tied at 16 points apiece when the giant Houston Rockets star Yao was substituted for the first time with 1:16 left on the clock.
However, in the time remaining, the US edged into a four-point lead and despite Yao's best efforts stretched that to 12 by half-time as LeBron James racked up 11 and Wade 12.
Perhaps it was the one-sided nature of contest, but Laura Bush appeared to be fighting to maintain her focus on the proceedings, and the eight dancing Chinese dragons chasing a man around the court that provided the brief half-time entertainment also failed to spark her interest.
The US domination continued as Bryant and company moved up a gear but at least the sight of the Beijing Dream Performers at the end of third quarter caused some tapping of the US president's foot although the 62-year-old couldn't stretch his appreciation as far as a round of applause.
With the US extending its lead by the minute and the victory secure, the presidential entourage decided to miss the rush and left with over half of the final quarter remaining to gracious applause from the Chinese fans.
Yao left the court two minutes later to conserve his energy for the battles ahead as China looks to emulate its feat from four years ago and make it to the last eight.
In other action, world champions Spain defeated Greece 81-56 while Dirk Nowitzki may have only arrived just in time for the singing of the German national anthem but the Dallas Mavericks star soon settled down and found his range against Angola, scoring 23 points in a facile 95-66 victory.
However, Nowitzki was outdone by naturalized German Chris Kaman, who scored 24.
In Group A, defending Olympic champion Argentina suffered an opening game loss to Lithuania, going down 79-75. Argentina managed to claw back a 12-point deficit shortly before the final siren but a three-pointer from Linas Kleiza of the Denver Nuggets secured there would be no way back for the Athens champions.
European champion Russia tops the group thanks to a 71-49 defeat of Iran while Croatia proved too strong for Australia, winning 97-82.