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August 21, 2014

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Yao and a tough Group B await Team USA in China

Case in Point

One of the factors for Team USA to regain its title as the world's best in Beijing will be the play of points guards Jason Kidd, Chris Paul and Deron Williams. The trio talks about what it will take to bring home the gold medal.

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A torn muscle in Carlos Arroyo’s left leg kept us from correctly predicting the final basketball teams for the Olympics next month in China.

Croatia also was a fly in our five-ring ointment.

In a story last week in which we previewed basketball at the Olympics, we had tabbed Germany, Greece and Puerto Rico to advance to Beijing out of an Olympic qualifying tournament in Athens.

Greece fared very well on its own turf, defeating Puerto Rico in a semifinal. The two semifinal winners advanced, and the winner of a game between the two semifinal losers also punched its ticket to China.

So Puerto Rico needed to beat Germany in that third-place game, but the Puerto Ricans did not have the services of the hot-shooting Arroyo. They lost, 88-63.

The real curve ball came from Croatia, which defeated Germany, 76-70, in the other semifinal.

So Croatia, Greece and Germany advance to China.

The outcome of the Athens tournament no doubt threw a wrench or two in the plans of the Americans, who begin training for Beijing in Las Vegas today and play Canada in a warm-up game Friday at UNLV.

Germany, tied for ninth in the latest world ratings, is in Group B with the U.S., as is Greece. The Greeks are ranked sixth in the world and have contributed to the recent woes of Team USA.

At the world championship in Japan two years ago, Greece belted the U.S. in a semifinal, keeping the Americans from a final on the international stage for a record third consecutive tournament.

Spain, third in the world, is another Group B participant.

And it appears center Yao Ming will play for China when it opens the Olympics against the U.S. on Aug. 10. That likely will produce a very heated atmosphere in at Wukesong Indoor Stadium in Beijing.

If that wasn’t enough, star guard Manu Ginboli is poised to play for Argentina. The Argentines (second in the world), Croatia (20th), Lithuania (fifth) and Russia (16th) could emerge from Group A to give the U.S. trouble in the knockout stages, too.

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