Shockingly, the Americans have still failed to pull away from China and its delirious jiayou-ing crowd. It's 49-37 at the half. But at least there's running and gunning, which the previous games here at the cleverly named Olympic Basketball Gymnasium were severely lacking.
With six minutes left in the half, Sun hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 29, and the crowd exploded with noise, although it was nowhere close to NBA playoff basketball noise. Of course, a huge chunk of seats are occupied by the media, which hurts the noise, and there are plenty of American boosters in the house.
The Americans are still flailing from the perimeter, failing to establish any kind of jump-shooting rhythm. Drives by Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, along with fast-break dunks, have been the team's biggest weapons. Wade has 12 points, while James and Howard have 11. China, on the other hand, survived almost entirely on the strength of its outside shooting.
Some sort of breaking point finally arrived late in the quarter, with consecutive Kobe Bryant dunks that completely silenced the crowd. As did the ensuing green-clad dancers twirling to classical music while tossing basketballs to each other. The NBA really needs to take over the entertainment here. Anyhow, the Americans ratcheted up the full-court defense, the Chinese guards faltered, LeBron began glowering at the crowd, and the lead suddenly went to double digits.
Still, the USA's body language is placid and almost listless for the most part, surprising given the amount of hype this game received and the passion of the crowd. But the Americans will still win in a blowout. Oh, and President Bush got particularly excited by a Kobe-from-LeBron alley-oop.