Olympics

Russia-China Preview

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Considered a potential sleeper to medal, Russia opened some eyes with an impressive start to the Olympics.

The performance shouldn't be lost on NBA teams, either.

Andrei Kirilenko and Alexsey Shved look to build on their strong opening performance when they face China in a Group B game on Tuesday.

Facing a Britain team eager to put on a strong showing as the Games' host country, Russia had no trouble matching its intensity and cruised to a 95-75 victory on Sunday.

Russia, which won one game and finished in ninth place at the Beijing Games, had to like what it saw from Kirilenko and Shved.

Kirilenko finished with 35 points on 14-of-17 shooting, while Shved added 16 points and 13 assists. Both will play for the Minnesota Timberwolves next season after signing contracts last week.

"If I'm the Minnesota Timberwolves, I have a big, fat smile on my face," Russian coach David Blatt said.

Kirilenko, better known for his defense during his 10 years with the Utah Jazz from 2001-11, looked refreshed after deciding to play in Russia last season and avoiding a grueling NBA season that was compacted by the lockout.

"I feel great,'' said Kirilenko, who signed a two-year, $20 million contract on Friday. "Look at me. I'm running like a young deer.''

Kirilenko did plenty of running and slashing toward the basket, and Shved found him time and again for lob passes and backdoor cuts. Seven of his assists went to Kirilenko.

"I said prepare right now for Minnesota, that's how you're going to find me,'' Kirilenko said. "I think he's doing a good job. Last year we played together. We've got connection. He knows when I'm going to cut. I know when he going to start driving so I give him space."

While the offense proved to be too much for Britain - shooting 62.7 percent from the field - Russia also wore down the hosts with its defensive pressure. It finished with 11 steals, nine blocked shots and limited the British to 4-of-26 shooting from 3-point range.

Vitaliy Fridzon led Russia with four steals and also scored 14 points, the only other player on the team to reach double figures.

The Russians boast an intimidating frontcourt with the 6-foot-10 Kirilenko, 7-1 Timofey Mozgov and 6-11 Sasha Kaun, and they'll be in charge of trying to contain Yi Jianlian, China's 6-11 forward.

Yi, currently a free agent after spending last season with the Dallas Mavericks, had a game-high 30 points and 12 rebounds in Sunday's opener against Spain, but it wasn't enough as China lost 97-81.

China got off to an encouraging start against a Spanish team expected to be perhaps the biggest threat to the U.S. It trailed by two points after one quarter and was within seven early in the fourth, but Spain went on a 9-0 run and China never threatened again.

China couldn't keep up with Spain's depth, as its bench was outscored 50-12.

Tagged: Yi Jianlian, Andrei Kirilenko

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