Australia beats China, works toward delaying Team USA rematch until gold-medal game

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
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Andrew Bogut didn’t play. Patty Mills lost his spot as the Rio Olympics’ leading scorer.

And Australia cruised to a 93-68 win over China in men’s basketball group play Friday.

Australia (3-1) is now another step closer to second place in Group A, which could mean avoiding a rematch with Team USA until the gold-medal game. Barring an upset – Australia to Venezuela on Sunday, Team USA to Serbia today or France on Sunday – the Americans and Australians will land on opposite sides of the bracket.

With no medals in its history, Australia is clearly aiming for more than a few feel-good games. Hence, resting Bogut. Cameron Bairstow (17 points and nine rebounds) and Aron Baynes (12 points and four rebounds) stepped up in the center’s absence, as Mills (five points) played but also handled a reduced workload.

Yi Jianlian matched Mills for the Rio individual points lead. Displaying the skills that once tricked scouts into believing he had lottery talent, Jianlian (20 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two blocks) played a dazzling all-around game. But China (0-4) needs a miracle set of outcomes, including beating Serbia on Sunday, to advance from the group stage.