Yi Jianlian had another solid performance as China took on Russia. Ultimately, it was a game that China lost 89 - 80. The loss drops China's record to 1-3
and likely means that they will not move on to the knockout round .
(Editor's note: they moved on anyway. Gotta love FIBA).
This was an interesting match-up as a few of the Russian players have NBA-caliber talent. Alexander Kaun and Sergei Monia spent some time on NBA rosters before returning to Russia. Anton Ponkrashov played for the Phoenix Suns in the 2010 Summer League. And the biggest name, Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250 lbs.), was a free agent signing earlier this summer by the Knicks.
Yi played 35 minutes and was 6-12 from the floor and 2-5 from the foul line for a total of 14 points. He also grabbed 9 rebounds and added an assist. Early in the game, Yi was often matched up with Mozgov who appeared to want to prove something against Yi. Mozgov finished the game 3-5 from the field and 2-2 from the foul line for a total of 8 points. Mozgov pulled down 2 rebounds and had four fouls, nearly fouling out.
This was the second game in a row in which China lead, but could not hang on to the lead late. China's Achilles heel is their guard play. The statistics do not tell the story of China's guards who appeared to have a decent night shooting. However, China's guards turned the ball over way too much - worse yet a number were unforced turnovers - they also took very bad shots and did not get the ball to their best player often enough. When they did, Yi either scored or was fouled. I'm sorry Sun Yue should not have the same number of attempts as Yi Jianlian.
Between Yi's work this summer with David Thorpe and this tournament with his National team, it appears that Yi has made some significant strides in his game. Let's take a closer look at Yi's night using the following clips to highlight his performance on both the offensive and defensive side of the court.
Yi managed to force his man under the hoop which put himself in great position to catch the badly missed shot and score an easy two.
Yi catches the pass on the low right block. He takes two decisive dribbles and with his long strides is able to finish at the rim.
Yi's drop-step, as illustrated in detail by Truth About It, has been very successful for Yi during the Worlds. In this game, he did not use it much, but when he did he either scored or was fouled. In this particular clip, the Ref called the foul before Yi easily scored. He went to the line and hit 1 - 2.
This clip was actually from early in the game when Mozgov appeared to be determined to go at Yi. While Yi gave up his position a little too easy, his length and position forced Mozgov into a tough shot that he missed.
Here Yi is matched up against Alexander "Sasha" Kaun. Yi maintained his position, got his hands up and forced a difficult shot attempt.
Another good defensive effort from Yi in the paint. Sun Yue's reaching foul wipes out Yi's block of Sasha Kaun.
Here another Yi blocked shot was wiped out due to a foul, this one against Yi. On this particular play, there did appear to be a small amount of contact down low as Yi was rejecting Mozgov's dunk attempt.
Through four games Yi has shown improvement in areas that were previously question marks. It appears that he has gone out of his way to score his points in the paint rather than take long twos and threes. Yi has used his drop step and jump hook pretty successfully in this tournament. He has also been much more active rebounding and blocking out. And while he is not known as a shot blocker, he is using his position and length to contest more shots. The next step for Yi will be to carry this momentum and duplicate this effort into Wizards camp and the season.
This clip gives you a sense of how challenging China's guard play is. It is late in the fourth and at this point, they need quick scores in order to get back into the game. Yi is wide open in the paint, but his teammate Wang Shipeng takes a bad three instead.
Who says Refs don't make mistakes? Well on this play the Ref makes two. A Russian guard gets up in the air with no where to go with the ball so he threw it toward the sideline near two teammates - neither of which were expecting the pass. Well before the ball goes out of bounds, it hits the Ref. It should be considered out of bounds, but the Ref lets play continue. Russian guard Evgeny Voronov is able to save the ball, except that his left foot is on the line. Again the Ref doesn't notice and the play continues. Doh.