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Yi Jianlian's value proved at crucial moment of games
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One shot was good enough to put Yi Jianlian to the center of the limelight.

His 15-foot jumper put China ahead 58-55 with 28.1 seconds to go and set the whole audiences into ovation when China drove to beat Germany 59-55 on Saturday.

China earned the berth into the top eight of the men's basketball competitions at the Beijing Olympics, four years after they stunned then world champions Serbia & Montenegro to enter the quarter-finals at the Athens Games.

Yi Jianlian (middle) of China scores during the match China VS US in men's preliminary round group B of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Basketball event in Beijing, China, Aug 10, 2008.[Xinhua]

Yi Jianlian (middle) of China scores during the match China VS US in men's preliminary round group B of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Basketball event in Beijing, China, Aug 10, 2008.[Xinhua]

"The whole country witnessed our victory tonight. We won!" Yi said in the mixed zone after the win.

Yi had nine points and 11 rebounds, as well as two steals in Friday's win. He averaged 8.0 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.8 steals in the tournament.

Tugged as the second biggest player export to the National Basketball Association behind Yao Ming, Yi was settled to be a role player for the Chinese national team instead of a super star from the world top basketball domestic league.

He was traded by the Milwaukee Bucks, which selected him No. 6 overall in the 2007 NBA Draft, to the New Jersey Nets in June. His maturation and modesty improved his game a lot during this summer to impress the world and his future club.

His job on Friday night was to defend NBA MVP Dirk Nowitzki. He forced the Dallas Mavericks pivot to miss a potential game-tying 3-pointer with 18.8 seconds to go and lose the ball on the next possession, though the German had 24 points and 17 rebounds.

"Dirk is one of the most difficult players to defend in the world. He made some (shots) and missed some. It's a work of the whole team (to defend him)," Yi said.

The determined Yi entered Friday's game with solid defence as he stopped German center Christopher Kaman inside the key and stole twice from Nowitzki.

His efforts inspired the whole Chinese team to play one of the best defence in the history when guard Sun Yue, who will play for the Los Angeles Lakers next season, and Yao Ming had two consecutive blocks to stop German's fastbreak with two minutes left in the quarter.

Nowitzki shot 7-out-of-20 in the field and Kaman were 4-out-of-11 when they were facing a tough defensive lineup of "YY" -- Yao and Yi.

"China played great defence tonight, especially in the first quarter. We just could not score," German head coach Dirk Bauermann said after his team trailed 19-9 in the first period.

Yi, 21, who averaged 6.2 points and 5.7 rebounds at the 2006 World Championships, has replaced Wang Zhizhi, former Miami Heat forward, as the starting power forward in the national squad. He played almost 33 minutes per game, the most in the team.

China are hoping to make a historical break-through at the Beijing Olympics to have a better results than the eighth placings and Yi is ready to play his role in China's more successes.

(Xinhua News Agency August 17, 2008)

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