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Basketball: Spain blasts China by 25 points
Updated: 2004-08-15 23:12

A matchup of international stars in Group A of Men's Basketball went entirely Spain¡¯s way on Sunday as Pau Gasol led his team to an 83-58 blowout victory over China and Yao Ming before 9,000 fans at Helliniko Indoor Arena.

Gasol left with a nosebleed early in the game, but soon came back to take control with 21 points. Yao ended up fouling out with 12 points under a barrage of fine inside play by Spain.

China's Yao Ming (R) embraces Spain's Pau Gasol after Gasol was hit on the nose during their preliminary Group A Olympic basketball game at the Helliniko Indoor Arena in Athens, Aug. 15, 2004. [Reuters]
Juan Carlos Navarro sizzled with 16 more points and Felipe REYES added 14 for Spain, whose defense stifled China for long stretches. Li Nan¡¯s 14 points were the most for the Chinese, who made just 32 percent of their shots.

A raucous crowd saw just the battle they had hoped for in the first quarter. With Gasol sent off with a nosebleed for some minutes, China went ahead 16-13 on consecutive 3-pointers from LI. Navarro matched those six points for Spain, however, forging an 18-18 tie after 10 minutes.

Gasol returned in style to spark Spain with 9 points during a 17-5 run to open the second quarter. Now behind 35-23, China¡¯s drought ended with a 3-pointer by Lui Wei and an inside basket by Yao. Spain wouldn¡¯t relent, however, and took a 30-42 lead at halftime, by which time Gasol had 12 points.

Gasol opened the second half with a 3-pointer for Spain¡¯s highest lead yet, 45-30. Zhu Fangyu answered with two long shots of his own and Yao dropped an inside basket to revive China, but it didn¡¯t last. Navarro and point guard Jose Manuel Calderon combined for 12 points in a 16-3 run to end the quarter with Spain in charge at 61-43.

Spain kept up the pace with the first three baskets of the final quarter, two of them backdoor passes from Gasol to Reyes. The outcome was not in doubt, but Spain refused to let up while scoring at will on the Chinese.

Spain continues in Group A against Argentina on Tuesday, while China must regroup against New Zealand, who lost to Italy earlier on Sunday.

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