All eyes on Yao Ming
Issued on: Modified:
Houston Rockets star Yao Ming will represent the host nation at the Beijing Olympics, although he has been injuried this season. Meet a Chinese giant.
Australia's Olympic squad manhandled Yao Ming-led China at the FIBA Diamond Cup in Nanjing on Wednesday, frustrating the towering centre in a lopsided 67-55 warm-up ahead of the Beijing Games.
The Boomers led by Milwaukee Buck Andrew Bogut and Melbourne Tiger Chris Anstey -- both 2.13 metres (seven feet) tall -- dominated the interior and used their size to force China into 25 turnovers.
Anstey led Australia with 11 points, while Bogut added nine.
Yao, in his fifth game back since being sidelined by a broken foot in February, had 14 points and seven rebounds for China, while former Dallas Maverick centre Wang Zhizhi only contributed four points.
New Jersey Nets' Yi Jianlian, China's other NBA player and Bogut's former Milwaukee teammate, was scoreless.
"Today our opponents played well and we lost the game," Yao told reporters. "But this was not the Olympic Games, at the Olympic Games we will will play better."
Australia jumped out to a 20-13 lead in the first quarter, extending it to 36-26 at halftime.
Following the break, China came back from a 14 point third quarter deficit and cut the lead to 55-49 with eight minutes left in the game before a string of turnovers helped Australia maintain a comfortable lead the rest of the way.
On Tuesday, China avenged an earlier Olympic warm-up loss to African champs Angola, with Yao scoring 21 points and grabbing five rebounds to lead his team to an 83-74 Diamond Cup victory.
Since returning from injury earlier this month, the 27-year-old Yao has averaged just over 13 points and five rebounds a game in five matches.
Before injuring himself, Yao was having his best NBA season, averaging 22 points and nearly 11 rebounds.
Besides being one of the most recognisable faces of the Beijing Games and arguably the most successful Chinese athlete ever, Yao is facing tremendous pressure to bring the team Olympic glory in front of the home crowd.
In a later Diamond Cup match, Iran held on to beat Serbia 72-70. Point guard Javad Davari led the way with 20 points, while towering centre Hamad Hadadi chipped in 20 points and pulled down 19 rebounds for the winners.
China will face Angola in the Olympics in a tough group B that includes the United States, world champion Spain, Greece and Germany.
Australia is in Group A with reigning Olympic champions Argentina, Russia, Lithuania, Croatia and Iran.