Tuesday, August 12th, 2008 at 12:33 pm  |  29 responses

China/Spain Game Recap

Notes from the game of the day.

by Alan Paul

China’s 85-75 OT loss to Spain was a crushing and heartbreaking blow. They dominated for almost the entire game, before seeing it all slip away in the fourth quarter and overtime in the face of stout defensive pressure and their own errors.

“Today is quite a disappointment for us,” forward Li Nan said afterwards. “When we had quite a good chance to win, we didn’t grab it. Today I feel really disappointed by the result.”

A visibly deflated coach Sarunas Kazlauskas was more to the point: “This game we should win but we don’t win.”

As soon as the basketball pairings were announced, Chinese press complained that their team was matched up with arguably the three best squads in the world – the US, Spain and Greece. They lost badly to the US in a supercharged environment and the question tonight was how would they respond to another formidable opponent on the heels of that – timidly after being on the wrong end of a second half dunkathon by Kobe Bryant, Lebron James and company? Or would they gain confidence after playing in such an intense environment?

It was soon clear that the latter would be the case. China hung close in the first quarter, finishing it down two and then turned up the heat. Throughout the second and third quarters, China was the aggressor in every phase of the game, closing out passing lanes and battling through screens on defense, beating Spain to lose balls and moving the ball with crisp authority leading to open looks on offense. Spain, meanwhile, looked rattled by the large and boisterous crowd. They played hard but sloppy, forcing shots and looking out of sync. Considered the greatest threat to a US gold, they did not look the part as China took a 52-37 lead.

Spain began to right their ship, but the Chinese weathered the storm, only to see it all start to slip away in the fourth quarter. Still, the Chinese almost pulled it off. As Spain rallied furiously, Yao Ming looked a step slow and guard Liu Wei, whose shooting and leadership had helped build the lead, began to misfire. But Wang Zhi Zhi, China’s first player to reach the NBA, kept them in the game with two clutch shots, both of them assisted by future Laker Sun Yue.

This gave China a 72-70 lead, until Marc Gasol (Pau’s brother, who will join the Memphis Grizzlies this season) hit the shot of the game, a difficult, twisting layup under extreme defensive pressure by Yao to tie the game and send it into overtime. With the wind at their back, Spain inevitably pulled away, outscoring China 13-3 in the extra period. Now 0-2, they face an uphill climb to make it to the medal round.

“For three quarters we played good… with discipline and defense,” a Kazlauskas said. “I don’t know why we could not get this game into pocket. We made bad decisions and turnovers and finally we lost this game.”

China’s failure was certainly not the result of a lack of effort by the crowd, which rooted loud, hard and long. Though you could almost hear the air let out of the building as Spain charged back into the game, the fans never gave up. Down six with 1:14 left in OT the crowd rallied for one more round of “Zhong Guo Jia Yoh!” and was still far from giving up. Alas, their team could not pull off the improbable upset.

Afterwards, Spain coach Aito Garcia Reneses admitted that his team underestimated China, a fault that very nearly cost them the game. “After we beat Greece and China lost very badly to the USA, we thought it could be a very easy game for us and that was obviously a big mistake. The Chinese team was very aggressive and very strong on both ends, and we did not show what we had. They were formidable opponents for us.”

Still, despite playing well, the Chinese let a winning game slip away and they may have a tough time recovering from this loss. “I saw the improvement of our team,” said Li Nan. “But we recognize the gap between the gap between other strong international teams and China.”

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  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    …and Kobe just missed another 3.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com/ RV

    thank you alan…it seems sites like ESPN and Yahoo! forgot there are other NBA players in the olympics besides Team USA.

  • http://alphonseha.blogspot.com Alphonse Ha

    Spain are world champions for a reason. They know how to win, how to perform under pressure.

    Losing a game like this is a testament to weak mental strength but that is ok. China is still young bball wise and will get better. They have a bright future I think.

    Spain showed them what it is to be world champions. They are mentally tough, even on an uphill battle they find ways to win.

    Sometime your shot just doesn’t fall and there is nothing you can do and other time your shot will fall and there is nothing the other team can do but turning the ball over because you do not protect it well is a mental lapse. Taking bad shots or not being able to find ways to break the other teams’ defense is all about mental strength and when you are mentally weak, you make bad decisions in crunch time.

  • Jackie Moon

    Ryan Jones, Kobe Hater Extraordinaire. Lebron looked good, though.

  • Yann Blavec

    “Zhong Guo Jia Yoh!” Excuse me , but what does that mean ?

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com/ RV

    Alphonse, then i guess Spain was absent the day they covered not underestimating your opponent in World Champions 101.

  • http://washedupplayer.blogspot.com/ RiseKing

    Marc Gasol is a much more serviceable post than I thought he’d be. His Griz jersey better just say “Marc”. Thanks for the report Alan!

  • h-wag

    That was a great game and I could feel the athmosphere even in my little internet streaming window.
    China played a great 3 1/2 quarters and the Spanish team looked really bad most of the game.
    But Rubio, who in my opinion outplayed Calderon by a wide margin today, totally dominated the game on the defensive end from the 4th quarter on and all the clutch scorers finally appeared on the court.
    But I would have never thought that China could hang with them like they did.

  • Tuomas

    Wouldn’t have hurt China if the so-called “coolest athlete on earth” actually played well. Also, being pillow-soft and imitating Kwame Brown are not good ways to lead your team.

  • B. Long

    I’m really pissed that I missed this game.

  • Kihwan

    Yann Blavec says:
    “Zhong Guo Jia Yoh!” Excuse me , but what does that mean ?

    essentially it means, “let’s go China!”

  • http://its-mitch.blogspot.com/ Paps

    Are there video highlights somewhere?

  • http://dyalekt.com d.Y.

    I think I read somewhere that the literal translation is “China more oil (or fuel)” Did everyone forget Yao just got back from injury?

  • Tuomas

    Perhaps I downplayed it a bit, d.Y. That said, nothing I haven’t seen from him before.

  • Dallas J

    pshh.. overtime with China. And we’re supposed to be concerned about the redeem team playing these guys?

  • Jackie Moon

    @B.Long, just check the game online at “rewind”

  • B. Long

    Just did, Jackie. Nice to see Pau coming up big in a big game. Hope that carries over to the Lakers next season, but not against TEAM USA.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    F*ck Marc Gasol. I can’t wait to see team USA sh!t all over Spain’s face. China is definitely improving.

  • Alan Paul

    Zhong Guo = China. JIa Yoh – Add oil. It is means, go harder, stronger, faster.. charge!

    It is really exciting to be at events involving china when the place just rocks to those cries.

    Marc Gasol’s bucket overy Yao to tie it was really nice and quite fearles. yao had perfect positioning. He looks tired. he played hard and strong but didn’t quite have it.

    China lost their confidence down the stretch. it was sad. Wang ZhiZhi kept his cool and kept them in the game.

    USA should really beat Spain. I will be there Saturday night.

    Ricky Rubio was great on D down the stretch but those quick hands really should not be as disruptive against Dwade et al

    I lost a lot of sympathy for spain after that photo. It is starting to circulate here and they are going to deservedly be public enemy number one any minute. Are they really that ignorant in Europe ot not have realized how offensive that was?

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com/ RV

    i completely forgot about Spain’s team photo…..how the hell do you underestimate a team after you disrespected them like that??

  • Tuomas

    Perfect positioning? Not on offense, where he was kept too far out by much smaller defenders. From there it took too long to make a move, which often was a fadeaway -> 33 percent shooting. I thought Yao’s mobility seemed back to where it was before, as evidenced by that spin and slam to start the game. His endurance might not be there yet. But I’ll let this slide (not so cranky today since I actually got a good sleep last night). Yeah, the Spain photo was pretty bad. “Europe” is a fairly heterogeneous continent. Ah, you Asians.

  • Tuomas

    Um, Alan, seems you were only talking about that one defensive sequence? Forget about the positioning comment. China’s gonna give a lot more trouble to elite countries once they realize how to win these games. They just froze up when Spain started to pull back in the fourth.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    Rubio was sick in OT and the last minute of reg. time. 6 deflections and 2 steals, an alley-oop dunk to go up by 4 in traffic and almost the game winner. quick too.

  • andre anglais

    How was Jose? and what were his numbers. I read somewhere else that Navarro started this one? (and that Pau didn’t start against Greece? What the Muck!?)

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Yao Ming just got back from and big injury, so obviously he’s not 100% Yao.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Again, I can’t wait till the US sh!ts all over those soft @ss Spaniards. And @ Tuomas: Although I agree with what you were saying for the most part, Asia includes India and others as well. Not so homogeneous, just a lot of people.

  • Tuomas

    Teddy, that was a test to see what happens if I don’t use sarcasm tags. Needless to say, won’t happen again.

  • Guzman

    I am from Spain and I think that USA should not have any problem to beat Spain by 20 points. The key is just not underestimate the Spaniards.

    Congratulations to China, they played hard and they put their heart on the court. I almost want them to win against us.

    One more thing for those spanish pic fans… The Chinese players didnt even know about the pic… noboby knows about in China… it was known only after the British Journals published it. They actually dont care in China, cause what could be considered ofensive according to American style… is not in Spain or China. We just have better sense of humor and we did not do it to boder anybody, that is the diference. If the intention was not bad… the reaction shouldnot as well. That is just carma my friends.

  • chintao

    Not true, Guzman. The boos were loud. Chinese fans don’t jeer the opposition without reason, especially in the Olympics.