Yao Ming scored 27 points and pulled down 13 rebounds to lead
China past world champion Serbia and Montenegro 67-66 here,
advancing China into the Olympic men's basketball
The stunning victory ensures the Chinese team of no worse than
matching their best Olympic finish, eighth at the 1996 Games, and
puts them into Thursday's quarter-finals, where a victory would put
them into the medal round.
"Today is a day of great joy for us," Yao said. "I feel the
generation before us made a great contribution. They did a great
thing. Today we have done the same.
"What we have achieved is a treasure for future generations of
Chinese players. What we have done is for the team, the fruit of
our labors. These games have made us realize a lot deep within
China will join unbeaten Spain, Argentina and Italy from Group A
while Group B sends unbeaten Lithuania, Puerto Rico, Greece and the
United States team of National Basketball Association stars in
Exact pairings will be decided by the results of later
Chinese players praised coach Del Harris, an NBA assistant at
Dallas who inspired them to stun a Serbian squad that beat them in
a pre-Olympic exhibition.
"He gave us a great lesson, a lesson of life - we should never
give up, no matter what, and do our best," Yao said.
Yao, a 2.26m (7ft 6in) center for the NBA Houston Rockets, sank
two pressure-packed free throws with 28 seconds remaining to give
China a 65-63 lead.
Serbian Dejan Bodiroga attempted a winning 3-pointer over Yao in
the final seconds but misfired and China took possession.
The Serbs were forced to foul and Du Feng, who had 12 points,
made two clutch free throws with 3.2 seconds remaining to lift
China's lead to 67-63.
China needed every point. Predrag Drobnjak, who led Serbia with
17 poinjts, sank a 3-pointer at the final buzzer, but all he did
was trim the final margin.
"The Olympics is a stage for miracles," Chinese captain Li Nan
said. "I hope what we have achieved leads us to greater victories
in the days to come.
"What we have achieved is a miracle."
Vlado Scepanovic hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Serbia a
60-53 lead. China's Zhu Fangyu scored the next four points but NBA
center Predrag Drobnjak hit another 3-pointer and the Serbians led
Liu Wen's jumper with 2:24 to play pulled China within 63-61 and
Yao lifted China into a tie with two free throws.
Yao, who vowed not to shave for six months if China failed to
reach the quarter-finals, took the team upon his shoulders in the
third quarter and made sure to keep his chin smooth when the next
NBA season begins.
The Chinese star battled double-teams for every rebound, and
found unguarded teammates and directed them into prime positions on
His work paid off with a 14-4 run that lifted China ahead 49-47
later in the third quarter. Yao scored five points in the run but
set up most of the rest with stellar inside play against Serbian
center Predrag Drobnjak, an NBA rival.
But the Serbians ended the quarter with a 7-2 run, Dejan
Tomasevic sinking a rebound shot at the buzzer to give his team a
54-51 edge entering the fourth quarter.
Yao scored 13 points in the first half and Chinese captain Li
Nan added 12 as the Asian champions kept the pressure on the Serbs,
who led only 34-31 at half-time.
(Agencyies August 24, 2004)