• 10:09 AM ET  08.10

Full time: The U.S. only led by 12 points at the half but exploded out of the locker room, outscoring their hosts 25-11 in the third quarter before coasting to a 31-point triumph. Craig Sager talks with LeBron James, who finished with 18 points, six rebounds and four assists. LeBron says this is the biggest stage he's ever played on -- far bigger than the NBA Finals -- and he's happy to be a part of the U.S. quest to reclaim international supremacy. On the Chinese side, Zhu Fangyu complemented Yao Ming nicely in the frontcourt, finishing with 11 points and eight rebounds. Despite the lopsided scoreline, there's a lot of positives China can take away from today's game and it will be interesting to see where they go from here. As for the United States, they've got nine-time FIBA Africa champion Angola due up Tuesday. Check back at this space for another live blog as tracks the Redeem Team on their quest for Olympic gold.

0:32.2, 4th: Michael Redd's baseline trifecta pushes the U.S. over the century mark. 

2:12, 4th: Zhang Quinpeng hits a three-pointer. Yi Jianlian throws down a dunk and follows it up with a jumper, cutting the hole to 89-64. The result has long been decided but there's Yao Ming standing on the sidelines, shouting and waving his arms trying to pump up his teammates. Yao knows this tournament is a long road and China's goal of advancing to the medal round is still intact. The six-time NBA All-Star is wise to stoke the confidence of his teammates.

4:41, 4th: Yao leaves the game to enthusiastic applause, pumping a fist to the disappointed but upbeat crowd. He exits with a team-high 13 points and a game-high nine rebounds.

5:45, 4th: No matter where you're from, you've got to love Yao Ming. What a gamer. Down 35 points, he's banging in the paint, taking punishment from the collapsing U.S. defense, drawing a foul and converting the fouls. 

6:47, 4th: Michael Redd finally gets into the scorebook with a three-pointer which inflates the U.S. lead to 34 points -- and sends George W. Bush to the aisles.  

8:53, 4th: The uneven jumpers hoisted by the Chinese players show their fatigue. It's the U.S. team's depth which, more than anything else, makes them prohibitive favorites to win the gold in Beijing. While teams like Spain or Argentina are better equipped to control the tempo and limit this advantage, it's hard to imagine the second- or third-tier teams in this tournament engineering an upset against the deep, talented American side.

End, 3rd: The U.S. outscored China by a 25-11 margin during the third quarter to open a commanding 26-point lead. Fifteen of America's 27 baskets have been dunks. 

1:02, 3rd: A Kobe Bryant breakaway dunk opens a 23-point lead for the Americans. 

2:14, 3rd: Dwyane Wade sinks a pair of fouls to open the U.S. lead to 68-48. Wade has enjoyed a perfect shooting day in his Beijing Olympics debut, sinking 6-of-6 shots from the floor and 5-of-5 from the line for 17 points. Yao Ming has exited the game for China.

3:05, 3rd: Chris Paul drives the lane and kicks to LeBron James on the baseline, whose three-point dagger opens America's largest lead of the game at 63-45. The U.S. has entered cruise control mode with just over 13 minutes remaining in this one.

4:24, 3rd: Yao Ming drops a pair of foul shots to cut the lead to 15 points. The U.S. coughs it up and Zhu Fangyu lays it in, cutting the U.S. lead to 56-43.

5:45, 3rd: LeBron James drives the length of the court -- evading a shoulder check from a Chinese player -- and throws down another rim-rocking dunk. China trails 55-39 approaching the midpoint of the third quarter and they're looking emotionally spent. 

8:18, 3rd: As the NBC announcers dish out heavy criticism about Yi Jianlian's commitment to becoming a better player and teammate, the New Jersey Nets post man interrupts  with a ferocious tip jam off a Yao Ming missed three-pointer. The dunk cuts the U.S. lead to 51-39. 

9:40, 3rd: Kobe Bryant opens the second half with a dunk out of the half-court set. Twelve of the U.S. team's 22 baskets today have been dunk shots. It's gut-check time for the Chinese right now.

Halftime: The U.S. holds a 49-37 lead at the half and the big story is Team USA's red-hot shooting. They've made 21-of-36 shots from the floor, a scorching 58.3 percent clip, aided no doubt by 11 dunks. Dwyane Wade leads all scorers with 12 points off the bench on 5-for-5 shooting. But it's LeBron James' do-everything performance -- 11 points, four rebounds and a game-high four assists -- which has powered the U.S. thus far.

0:03.7, 2nd: Liu Wie holds the ball for the final shot of the half, eventually driving the lane and picking up the foul while shooting. He splits the free throws to cut the deficit to a dozen.

1:30, 2nd: The U.S. has used a 16-3 burst to stake a 45-32 lead. The game is starting to get away from the hosts a little bit.

2:35, 2nd: Chris Bosh puts down a lay-up out of the half-court offense. On the subsequent possession, the U.S. pushes the ball downcourt off a China miss and LeBron James throws down a thunderous dunk while getting fouled. The Cleveland Cavaliers star misses the free throw but the scoring play still opens the largest lead of the game for the Americans at 41-32.  

4:30, 2nd: Kobe Bryant deposits two dunks during a 10-second span -- capping a six-point U.S. burst over 30 seconds -- to put America back in front by a 35-29 count. China calls timeout to calm the troops. Craig Sager interviews Jerry Colangelo during the break, who talks about the design behind Team USA.

6:00, 2nd: Sun Yue bangs a three-pointer to tie the score at 29-29 and send the crowd into histrionics. China is 7-for-11 from beyond the arc to open the game, or 21 of their first 29 points.

6:40, 2nd: Yao Ming's beautiful right-handed hook shot in the lane to cut the U.S. advantage to 29-26. The Chinese are hanging around thanks to a patient, methodical half-court game. 

8:14, 2nd: LeBron James pins a Chinese shot against the backboard with two hands, falls to the floor and fires a 60-foot outlet pass to Kobe Bryant for a breakaway slam dunk. U.S. leads 26-21. The top highlight of the game so far.

8:48, 2nd: Zhu Fangyu opens the second quarter with a three-pointer from the baseline to cut the U.S. lead to 20-19, but the Americans come back on the other end and counter with a Wade baseline dunk (after extending the possession with an offensive rebound). Yao Ming just re-entered the game after getting a puff to start the second frame. A thought: Where is Michael Redd?

End, 1st: A Dwight Howard dunk -- America's third flush in the last 4:46 of this quarter -- opens a 20-16 lead for the U.S. with 10 minutes down and 30 minutes to go. With the deep, NBA-laden American roster start to wear down the Chinese in the second quarter, which has traditionally seen the U.S. play their best? Or can China sustain their torrid shooting pace from downtown after making 4-of-4 from downtown to open the game?

1:04, 1st: As Wade drains a pair of foul shots to give the U.S. a 18-16 lead, the camera pans to national team director Jerry Colangelo sitting with George H.W. Bush in the crowd. 

2:28, 1st: Dwyane Wade opens the U.S. edge to 16-11 -- America's largest lead of the game. But China rattles off five straight points on a Liu Wei three-pointer and a Chen Jianghua lay-up. China is 4-for-4 from beyond the arc in the early going and they probably couldn't imagine a better start to this one. The fans at the Wukesong Indoor Stadium are amped up and it's obvious the Chinese team is feeding off them.

4:22, 1st: First, LeBron James flushes a beautiful fast-break dunk off a Chris Paul assist to tie the game at 11 apiece. Then, the U.S. takes a 14-11 lead off a China turnover when Kobe Bryant deposits a three-pointer.

6:00, 1st: A fast tempo early with China matching the Americans blow for blow. We've also got our first subs of the game -- Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul enter for the U.S. team -- as Mike Krzyzewski looks to push the tempo to a breakneck pace.

9:30, 1st: And Yao Ming opens the scoring for the Chinese with a three-pointer from the top of the key! It's China with the early 3-0 lead.

10:00, 1st: We're ready to get going from Wukesong Indoor Stadium in Beijing. Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard are starting for the Americans, while Sun Yue, Liu Wei, Wang Shipeng, Yi Jianlian and Yao Ming.

* * * 

The United States opens its quest for Olympic gold tonight in Beijing -- and this morning in New York -- with presidents George W. Bush and Hu Jintao expected to be in attendance. Tonight's Group B opener has been billed as one of the most anticipated Olympic basketball games in history, though it's worth mentioning the result itself means little. Each country need only finish among the top four in its six-team group to advance to the medal round, so this is hardly win-or-go-home territory for the host nation or the heavily favored American side. But the world will be watching to see how the so-called Redeem Team looks in their first Olympic outing -- and whether the Chinese can feed off the emotion of their raucous home crowd and possibly engineer the upset.

I ranked the United States second and China ninth on my pre-Olympic power rankings on Friday. But home-court advantage is a tricky intangible -- and it's not like the U.S. team has overperformed on the international stage since their last first-place finish in a major world tournament (at the Olympics in 2000). It will be interesting to see whether the U.S. sprints out and looks to register a first-round knockout or whether they sit back and let the game come to them.


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