The Games of the 29th Olympiad: Men’s Basketball, Preliminary Round, Group B: United States vs. China, Live Blog

It’s the Olympic debut of Dream Team V, and the only one without gold to defend. And it’s against the host nation and the largest country in the world. Oh, and about a billion people will watch.

So it’s, yes, kind of a big deal.

Well, this intro could certainly be much better if it were a dedicated basketball one. But the NBA on NBC song? Man, that brings back good memories.

Anyone who knows Kobe just as a great scorer has probably never seen anything but an ESPN broadcast of an NBA game; he’s a great defender, and he should probably get more credit for that during these Olympics.

Your previews are here and there, at least as far as the whole tournament goes. But you won’t find a dedicated one for this game. (Hint: the U.S. is a gold medal contender; China will be hard-pressed to make the medal round.)

That Coke commercial? Eh. This AT&T one also hurts much more than the previous ones in this series have.

This piece on Yao Ming’s return to the world’s stage, and his getting overshadowed by the little hero from the Opening Ceremony, could be better if it looked at, you know, issues and questions and things. But it’s NBC: Nothing But Commendation.

Dubya gets into the huddle? Wait, he’s still President?

Craig Sager, breaking down the one-on-one between Hu Jintao and George W. Bush. This is why we can’t have nice things.

Pretty court, here. Dwight Howard gets the tip, and we’re off; almost instantly, a turnover on an inside pass to Carmelo Anthony.

And China comes back with Yao hitting a three. Uh. Oh.

Yao tries to get too cute with an over-the-head pass; it’s a turnover. Kobe Bryant shoots; hits the side of the backboard. Another turnover by China; it turns into a Howard dunk.

This game’s at a fairly fast pace; that’s not a really good thing for China.

Another three for China is answered by an and-one situation for Howard inside, and the chances that he makes a free throw in this entire, if he continues to shoot like that, are not good.

LeBron James gets a continuation foul and hits the free throw; the U.S. leads for the first time, 7-6.

A third three gets the Dragon to a 9-6 advantage, and Jason Kidd thinks he’s a Maverick for a moment, turning it over on a really ugly move; it turns into an 11-7 lead at the other end.

I give up on being real-time; a gorgeous left-handed glass-kisser by LeBron made it 11-9, and we’ve since swapped good blocks by Yao and LeBron to stay there.

We go to commercial with the score the same. I really do love this Coke one, with the animated LeBron and Yao backed up by their nations.

Nice graphic by NBC, taking up the entire screen with a few words. (That’s sarcasm.)

Good fast break by Chris Paul, and a sweet dish to LeBron, who throws down. There’s a three by Kobe, and the U.S. is up three. Another steal by Dwyane Wade; another dunk.

It’s a 7-0 American run.

And it gets answered by five straight from the Chinese. It’s tied at 16-16.

CP3 draws a foul, and we see the Olympic debut of the Paul-Deron Williams backcourt.

It’s slowing down; this favors a Chinese team that needs to avoid American defensive pressure and hurts an American team that’s much better on the break than in half-court sets.

I believe Yi Jianlian just shot for the trash can in the third row.

Good defense by Howard at one end, and a dunk at the other end.

Hey! I didn’t know you could play Plinko with a basketball!

Another obnoxiously large graphic. NBC, how about you tidy those up?

LeBron glides above midcourt and misses the shot at the buzzer sounds; it’s the United States 20, China 16 at the end of the first quarter.

And of course, we go to a Chevy commercial with the strains of that unmentionable Mellencamp song in the background. Because that’s what we need to hear.

China nails their fifth three of the game. Williams misses a three at the other end. I sense a theme.

D-Wade comes off a Howard screen and puts it in; a miss by Yi from eight feet; a good pass off a spin by LeBron puts Brick House Howard at the line.

And Howard sinks both, nothing but net. I guess he can hit free throws.

Great sequences: Yao misses, Kobe tips it back to an easy Chinese lay-up. Then Kobe hits iron on a three, LeBron snatches a lay-up off the glass, and the dish to Wade upcourt is perfect.

Another three by China. Hey, Coach K: I think if you trade threes for twos for the whole game, you lose. I don’t know, though, I’m not a leader of men.

Yao inside, cuts it to 29-26. This is much closer than the U.S. would have liked it to be at this point.

China hits yet another from outside, going gas station (7-11) for the game thus far. It’s all tied up at 29.

Mike Breen just laughed as he called the officiating “horrendous.” Oh, boy, that sounds good.

Chris Bosh, lovingly dubbed “The Viper” by my brother for his serpentine face, gets a dunk and a steal; Kobe dunks at the other end, then pressure leads to another Kobe slam.

Six points in thirty seconds for the United States. That’s what this team can do.

Jerry Colangelo, cagey in the interview.

China hits another triple; they’ve got 32 points, and 24 of them are from behind the arc.

Bosh, impressive so far, grabs a rebound, and gets it to LeBron, who thunders to a basket, then draws the  international intentional foul, which I can best describe as a pseudo-technical for NBA fans.

Another Bosh bucket inside, and a nice pass by Kidd gets him a slurping from Doug Collins.

Oh, wow: A great alley-oop from Wade to James, who’s missed two free throws now. A great trap turns into a Kobe dunk. Good defense gets another break and an easy dunk by Bosh.

The U.S., pulling away: Wade hits a pretty turnaround fadeaway and puts them up 13.

NBC replays a Wade lay-up; he’s got his 2006 Finals form back, folks, if he can hit difficult, physical shots like that.

China holds to drain the shot clock, draws a foul.

We learn that Dara Torres is Jason Kidd’s inspiration. So, uh, does that mean Dara Torres treats her wife wrong, or is Kidd maybe on PEDs? I am confused by this.

We go to the half: it’s the United States 49, China 37.

The president looks enthused in the stands. (Okay, not really.)

“Only a brace of three-pointers has kept China within hailing distance of the United States,” our friendly NBC halftime anchor, Jim Lampley, tells us. That’s about the size of it, yeah.

Nice Nike commercial with a mellow Marvin Gaye rendition of the national anthem supporting the training montage.

NBC’s halftime piece examines the Chinese enthusiasm for basketball. Oh, how sweet: Let’s romanticize the national pastime that isn’t suppression of human rights.

You can see why I didn’t even bother applying for press credentials.

Those Chinese scorers? Zhu Fangyu has nine, and Sun Yue has eight. I’ll try to use their names as we go forward.

The second half opens with a Kobe drive and a LeBron block; James now has 11/4/3/3 blocks, which is representative of him being everywhere in this first half. And after a bad Kidd pass, natch, Bron-Bron’s D forces a bad shot by Yi.

And on the next possession, Yi slams home a putback over a helpless Carmelo Anthony, who’s scoreless and has just two rebounds this game. After traded fruitless possessions, he draws a foul and gets to the line.

Makes the first. Makes the second. It’s 53-39, U.S.

Oh, good, the basketball team is visiting other athletes. Like, say, Jason Kidd visiting Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh. Coming Thursday: Kidd takes Shawn Johnson out for ice cream.

Just a note: don’t take Dubya’s sloppy seconds, okay?

Uh, the basketball? Some missed shots, a good block by Sun Yue, a dunk by LeBron, and the lead stretched to 16.

Yao schools Bosh crossing the lane, draws a foul. Gets it to within 15 at 56-41.

A Chinese fast break gets two, and they zone the U.S. A CP3 (er, 13) miss leads to a CB4 (um, 12) putback; another easy fast break bucket for the U.S. is followed by two at the line for China. We’re settling into a trading-baskets feel.

LeBron hits just the Americans’ second three.

If you’ve just tuned in: D-Wade is good. He’s 6-6 from the field and 5-5 from the line, and he leads the U.S. in scoring, pushing the lead to 20 with his latest charity stripe conversion.

The U.S. is making it look easy, now: Kobe dunks to make it 71-48, and they’ve outscored the Chinese 25-11 in the third quarter after a Carlos Boozer free throw, and a Wade steal-and-dunk.

As we go to the fourth quarter, it’s the United States 74, China 48.

The big difference is that the U.S. has clamped down inside and China’s threes have stopped falling; the U.S. is shooting better than 50% (28-49), but China’s shooting worse than 33% (16-49). It’s attributible to some of the defense onlookers have wanted and expected from the Redeem Team, but it’s also due to China’s lack of athleticism and unwillingness to press inside for easier shots.

The U.S. is resting LeBron, Kobe, Howard and all of the other starters for a lineup of Paul, Williams, Wade, Tayshaun Prince, and Boozer. It’s not quite the Washington Generals; it’s a small-ball lineup that makes assistant Mike D’Antoni happy, for sure.

Nice D by Prince leads to a pretty move by Williams at the other end; then, a Michael Redd three pushes the lead to 34, 84-50. Not the best second half for the Chinese.

And the President is leaving, perhaps to go watch handball.

Redd, another three. Kobe, zippered up on the sidelines. LeBron, the same. My style, lame.

“They’re down 35 and he’s still out there battling,” Mike Breen says of Yao. He’s going to finish with a double-double, but he was neutralized for much of the game by Bryant, Howard, and Bosh, and he’s got to be upset with the poor shooting by his teammates in the second half.

Yi with a nice move on Paul inside. Ho. Hum. And here’s some more Yi.

And there’s Deron Williams, blowing by everything. He’s looked very good all game.

Nice move by a Chinese swingman at one end, but it gets neutralized by a gorgeous D-Will pass inside that leads to Boozer batting a ball high up off the board and in.

Chris Paul hits a three! The Hornets fan in me smiles at that; he’s apparently been working on his outside shooting, the one big hole in his game, this summer, and that’s a very, very good thing.

This garbage-time team isn’t half bad; Williams and Paul are penetrating, Redd’s shooting, Boozer is adequate inside, and Howard’s a big body.

But this one was over long before Paul shook hands as the clock expired.

The final: United States 101, China 70.

It’s not a bad result for either team: China looked good while shots were falling, and the U.S. just overpowered them and locked down in the third quarter, pulling away at the end. Certainly, it also wasn’t a complete game for either team, but the flashes each showed were encouraging.

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