Yi Jianlian scored 30 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in his first match of the London Olympic Games but China still lost 97-81 to European champions Spain here on Sunday, while defending champions the United States had a dominant but not dreamy start.
It was the first Olympic match Yi played without perennial teammate Yao Ming, who retired last year. As the new leader of the Chinese national team, Yi put out the best.
"I tried to give everything I have as the team leader," Yi said. "I didn't care much about my performances. I cared about the whole team and the outcome. I didn't play well in the first quarter as I fell into foul trouble. But we kept on and cut the lead as much as we could until the last quarter."
The first half was quite balancing as the lead was exchanged 10 times and the scoreline was tied four times. Spain bettered off during the last minutes to take a 53-42 lead.
China kept themselves in the game in a tough third quarter when Spain's lead was cut to nine points, and China carried on to close it on 69-62 at the start of the last quarter.
A 9-0 run put the game beyond touch for the Chinese after Serge Ibaka's apparent travelling was not called.
"The refs were good. Maybe they missed the travel, but it happened in the basketball game. It's not the reason," China's guard Wang Shipeng said. "We lost because we were really tired in the fourth quarter. Spain's bench is so deep that we faced a whole bunch of 12 players until the end of the game."
Spain shot 11-out-of-19 on three-pointers and dominated the board by 39-25. Pau Gasol led the team with 21 points and 11 rebounds, while Ibaka adding 17 and Juan-Carlos Navarro 14.
China's Wang Zhizhi had 15 points and Chen Jianghua chipped in 12.
Kevin Durant scored 22 points in his Olympic debut to help the U.S. team take a 98-71 opening win over France. Dominant, but not dream start. Just as head coach Mike Krzyzewski said, this was just a U.S. team, not a Dream Team.
The Americans started the match by missing its first six three-point attempts and only led by one point after the first quarter. They were never in real trouble, 14 turnovers and 26 fouls still kept this superstar-laden squad from feeling too comfortable.
Kevin Love added 14 points and LeBron James had eight assists. James only took six shots while setting up his teammates.
"It wasn't perfect," said James. "We've still got room for improvement. We had too many turnovers, too many fouls and we had a couple of defensive rebounds we could have come up with. But overall, we played a pretty good game for as close to 40 minutes as possible."
Kobe Bryant only played 12 minutes and took 10 points. Combined with James and Durant, the trio finished the game 6 of 12 from three-point range while the rest of the U.S. team went 2 for 13.
"We know everybody else expects us to win by 40 points," said Carmelo Anthony. "For us, a win is a win. We expect every game to be like this one."
Tony Parker, who almost missed the Olympics after undergoing surgery for an eye injury, was forced only to 10 points. Ali Traore led the French side with 12 points. France fell to 0-5 in Olympic competition against the United States.
Marcelinho Huertas' two free throws with five seconds remaining helped Braizl hold off Australia 75-71. Huertas ended with 15 points and 10 assists for Brazil. Leandro Barbosa and Anderson Varejao tallied 16 and 12 points, respectively, whilePatrick Mills had 18 points and seven rebounds to lead Australia.
Andrei Kirilenkoscored 35 points to help Russia spoil Britain's return to Olympic men's basketball with a 95-75 victory. Nigeria beat Tunisia 60-56 in the opening match. Artentina beat Lithuania 102-79.