Wed, Aug 09, 2006 - Page 18 News List

LeBron leads as US crush China

WARM-UP GAME The Cavs forward led his team with 23 points and Brad Miller chipped in with six three-pointers as the US thrashed China in a challenge match

AP , GUANGZHOU, CHINA

Dwight Howard of the US, right, hangs onto the basket after a slam dunk as China's Jie Libin, left, and Shane Battier, second left, look on in Guangzhou, China, during the China Basketball Challenge on Monday.

PHOTO: AFP

LeBron James scored 23 points and Carmelo Anthony added 18 to lead the US to a 119-73 win over China on Monday in a game overshadowed by Yao Ming's absence.

Playing without the injured Yao and NBA veteran Wang Zhizhi, Chinese players were repeatedly stripped of the ball by the tough US defense and were left slipping and falling trying to keep up with the fast-moving attack. Yao's defensive strength was missed especially under the Chinese basket, where the US grabbed 15 rebounds.

"We are one of the best teams," said James, who thrilled the capacity crowd in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou with massive jams on the fast break, while Brad Miller made all six of his three pointers.

"We are always going to be ready to play. The guys are bringing a lot of energy off the bench," James said. "We are producing on the court and taking care of business. We just had our stuff."

It was the second consecutive drubbing of an opponent by the US, coming on top of last week's 45-point victory against Puerto Rico.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski said the wins showed the American superstars are gelling as a team as they gear up for the world championships in Japan starting on Aug. 19.

"I was happy in that we played very hard every second and we played unselfishly, and as long as we do those two things, we will continue to improve," Krzyzewski said.

"This team is not about individual performance, its about collective performance," he said.

China scored first on a Yi Jianlian free throw and held the US lead to just four points in the first quarter.

Yi, a 2.12m center considered China's next NBA prospect, had 14 points, while Du Feng led the scoring for China with 18.

The US began to open things up in the second quarter, ending the half at 37-60, and building their lead to 53-93 by the end of the third. The margin stayed roughly the same through the fourth quarter, but by then the outcome was academic.

Chinese coach Jonas Kazlauskas said Yao's absence was key to the size of the loss. Over Yao's summer-long recovery from a foot injury suffered in April, China has repeatedly lost big against some of the games' biggest powers and Kazlauskas said the poundings were tough on the players even if they were good experience.

"Today we played against one of the best, maybe the best team in the world," said the Lithuanian-born coach.

"It was really difficult for us, especially for those young boys on the court," he said.

The US play Brazil in Guangzhou on Tuesday before flying to South Korea, while China travel to the eastern city of Nanjing for more exhibition games. Yao and possibly Wang are expected to be fit for those matchups.

The margin of victory on Monday was only slightly greater than at the two teams' last meeting at the 2002 World Championships, when the US won 84-65 in Yao's first official competition appearance for China.

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