Basketball - U.S. stomp China and Yao 101-70
BEIJING (Reuters) - The United States men's basketball team overpowered Olympic hosts China 101-70 after a pre-game huddle with American President George W. Bush on Sunday.
One of the hottest tickets of the Beijing Games, giant Chinese centre Yao Ming triggered a deafening roar from a sellout crowd of 18,000 after scoring the opening basket.
Led by the high-flying Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, the NBA's leading scorer, the Americans stormed back to take a 49-37 halftime advantage and never looked back.
Bush had playfully bumped shoulders with the players in a court-side corridor prior to the game.
His father, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, also greeted the American players, Carmelo Anthony hugging him and asking, "What's up, pops?"
The blockbuster Group B opener was likely the most-viewed sporting contest ever in China, with hundreds of millions believed to be watching on television.
"This is something I will treasure as a memory for the rest of my life," Yao told reporters. "It felt great, all the flags and cheering."
Yao hit just three of 10 shots and scored 13 points while Dwyane Wade scored a game-high 19 points and Bryant finished with 18 for the gold medal favourites.
Meanwhile, Argentina's defence of their Olympic men's basketball title suffered a blow when they were upset 79-75 by Lithuania.
Denver Nuggets forward Linas Kleiza nailed an off-balance three-point shot with 2.1 seconds left to seal a dramatic win for the Lithuanians.
"It's very special to beat Argentina in our first game," Kleiza said. "It was definitely an important game for us. We are just a small country."
World champions Spain, in contrast, had too much firepower for Greece in their Olympic opener, rolling to an 81-66 victory in Group B.
Earlier, Dirk Nowitzki's Germany crushed Angola 95-66 in Group B, while European champions Russia thrashed Iran 71-49 and Croatia beat Australia 97-82 in Group A.
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