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Great big hole in the middle exposed

By Chen Xiangfeng  (China Daily)

09:41, August 03, 2012

Yao Ming was right to be worried.

The retired NBA center, now serving as a TV commentator at the London Games, voiced his concern about China's lack of dominance in the paint before the team's game against Australia on Thursday.

Sure enough, China was completely overwhelmed in the middle, losing 81-61 and casting serious doubt on its ability to advance to the final eight.

China was outscored 30-13 in the paint and out-rebounded 51-36.

"Yes, we miss Yao Ming," said head coach Bob Donewald Jr. "We need more different styles of players. But we have to accept the reality and hopefully we can have more guys on this team come up to help Yi (Jianlian)."

Yi, now the only Chinese player in the NBA, was double-teamed constantly, scoring only 13 points, while fellow big men Wang Zhizhi and Zhang Zhaoxu combined for just three.

Australian power forward David Andersen - Yao's former teammate with the Houston Rockets, incidentally - had 17 points and seven rebounds.

"Yi had a great game and he gave what he could against such physical opponents. Wang tried to give him some help, but he just could not get the ball," Donewald said.

Yi was the MVP at last year's Asian Championships, where he helped China earn Asia's only ticket to the Games.

"It's not the Asian Championships," Donewald said. "It's the Olympic Games and the highest level. We cannot have just one Yi on the team. We need more great guys like him in the future."

China will have to play medal-contender Brazil and host Britain in the remaining two group matches. Winning both, and admission to the quarterfinals, will be nearly impossible.

"Physical play is our weakness," Donewald said. "We were worn out in the latter half of the game every time we played against physical teams. Brazil has three NBA players and is an even tougher opponent. But we will give what we can and learn from these experiences.

"I know these guys are down after three losses. I will help them pick their heads up and let them know it's not the end. We have two more games and we just cannot give it up."

Making things worse, Yi appeared to injure his knee, and was helped off the court by his teammates.

"We will see how he is doing after treatment. Hopefully, he will be OK," Donewald said.


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