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Yao Leads China Tight Victory over New Zealand
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Center Yao Ming scored 39 points tolead China to a 69-62 victory over New Zeland on Tuesday in the group stage of the men's basketball event of the Athens Olympics.

The victory threw a lifeline to China which had to beat New Zealand to keep alive their hopes of making the quarterfinals of the Olympics.

In the presence of towering center Yao, China seemed to be a big mountain hard for New Zealand to scale.

Yao Ming, who stands at 2.26-m tall, was the go-to guy in the first period for China, using his air advantage to score 10 pointsin the first period.

Building its tactics around Yao, China also organised a sound defense, forcing New Zealand to rely on three-pointers to keep themsleve in the game.

New Zealand had to take the B plan to mark Yao with more players, only to leave space for other Chinese players to shoot.

New Zealand also tried to minimize the threat of Yao by keepinghim out of the paint, but Yao still managed to get six points in the second period and inspired China to a 29-20 halftime lead.

New Zealand, thanks to their merit in scoring three points, bursted into a 12-2 run in the third period, threatening to level the tie for the first time in the game.

But Yao continued to be the major difference between China and New Zealand, contributing 21 points in the third period and remained the leading scorer on the field.

But China had yet to pull away clear as they led only 51-45 after the third period with New Zealand continuing to turn on pressure in the last period.

With 16.9 seconds remaining, China only led by four points, but China managed to hold back the charge by New Zealand and won by 69-62.

(Xinhua News  Agency  August 17, 2004) 

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