Gasol leads Spain over China in OT
By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN
Associated Press Writer
By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN
BEIJING — Pau Gasol scored 29 points to lead world champions Spain to an 85-75 overtime victory over Yao Ming and hosts China in Olympic men's basketball Tuesday.
Battling back from a 14-point deficit at the end of the third period, Spain's Juan Carlos Navarro tied the score at 70-70 with two minutes to go.
China then went ahead on a jumper by former Dallas Maverick Wang Zhizhi, but Spain pulled even again at 72-72 on a fadeaway jumper by Pau's little brother Marc.
At the start of overtime, Spain raced to a four-point lead and with the Yao of the Houston Rockets on the bench and the rest of the squad drained, China crumbled in the face of back-to-back jams by Gasol.
The Spanish display of grace under pressure spread a final hush over the boisterous Chinese crowd that filled the 18,000-seat Beijing Olympic Basketball Gymnasium and had heartily booed every Spanish possession.
Rudy Fernandez added 21 points for Spain, while guard Liu Wei led the scoring for China with 19, followed by 15 each for Wang and Zhu Fangyu, and 11 for Yao.
China had made best use of its size advantage at both ends of the court, pairing Yao and with the towering Wang and Yi Jianlian, recently traded to the New Jersey Nets.
Behind 20-18 after the first quarter, China stormed to a 46-39 lead at the half on sloppy play by Spain, whose shooters managed to sink just 45 percent of their field goals against 57 percent for the Chinese.
Liu Wei was 83 percent on five-for-six shooting in the first two quarters, while Spain's guards and big men seemed rattled.
A more composed Spain piled on the pressure in the fourth quarter, forcing Yao to play the ball out to the forwards and snapping up steals to score on the fast break.
Spain, which finished out of the medals at Athens in 2004, has two wins in the tournament, while China finds itself without a win following Sunday's 101-70 blowout at the hands of the United States.
In Tuesday's other Group B game, Vasileios Spanoulis and a dogged Greek defense curbed the Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki in a 87-64 win over Germany, setting the stage for a much-anticipated clash with the United States.
In Group A play, Linas Kleiza scored 22 points to lead unbeaten Lithuania to a 99-67 victory over Asian champions Iran. Sarunas Jasikevicius added 20 points while Hamed Ehadadi had 21 points for Iran, which is winless after two games.
World 20th-ranked Croatia, meanwhile, defeated European champions Russia 85-78. Marko Popovic led scoring for Croatia with 22 points, while captain Andrey Kirilenko led Russia with 18.