RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump may fret about the United States’ trade imbalance with China but on the basketball court it is all one way business, as it was again on Saturday as the U.S. opened the Olympic tournament with 119-62 thrashing.
China (0-6) has never beaten the U.S. on Olympic hardwood and there was not the faintest hint that this was going to be the evening that drought would end, even when Ding Yanyuhang scored the first points on a pair of free throws.
That was the high point for China, the last and only time they would lead, as the U.S. clinically rolled to a 59-30 halftime advantage, leaving a flat atmosphere inside the packed Carioca Arena.
Bored fans quickly resorted to entertaining themselves by doing the wave while the biggest buzz of the night was generated by a halftime show of rope jumping acrobats.
This U.S. squad may be more “B Team” than “Dream Team” with many top players, including four-time National Basketball Association most valuable player LeBron James and twice reigning MVP Stephen Curry, deciding to stay home but there has been no noticeable drop in skill or quality.
Every player on the U.S. roster got on the score sheet in the opener with four getting into double figures led by Kevin Durant with 25.
”I thought China played really hard, they have a lot of young players and they are getting better and we were good,“ said U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski. ”We’re older and more talented and we played really hard and shared the ball.
”The Olympics are different, they’re big, for 10 of the guys it is their first Olympics, it’s different, it’s new.
”I don’t know if they were nervous as excited.
“They know from being in the opening ceremonies last night this is a huge stage.”
Going for a third straight gold, the victory extended the U.S. Games winning streak to 18-0, dating back to the bronze medal game of the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Outside of Olympic competition, the U.S. is on a 68-game unbeaten run (45 straight wins in FIBA and FIBA Americas competitions, and 23 consecutive wins in exhibition games) that goes back to 2006.
The last time the China and the U.S. clashed on the Olympic stage was 2008 in Beijing in an intriguing matchup played in front of a standing room only crowd that included U.S. President George W. Bush and an estimated one billion television viewers.
The U.S. won that game 101-70 victory and has been even more dominant since.
More recently, the two teams met in a pair of exhibition games in the run in to Rio with Team USA winning by 50 and 49 points.
The 57-point margin of victory in Saturday opener was the biggest since a 133-70 result at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
The result was not unexpected for a young Chinese team.
”This result was already kind of expected before the game even started,“ said China coach Wang Zhelin. ”Our target before the game was to try to get things better.
“It is a precious opportunity for our team to improve our tactics. We have played Team USA three times this summer and this is a very good opportunity for us to learn.”
Editing by Andrew Both