BEIJING, August 11, 2008 -- In their first game in Beijing, it took the U.S. Women's Senior National Team about five minutes to get warmed up.
Tonight, in their second game, it didn't take nearly as long. And they didn't just get warm. They got hot, making short work of hosts China, 108-63, Monday night at the Wukesong Culture and Sports Center.
After missing their first three shots of the game, the U.S. made 12 of their next 13 attempts from the field, scoring on 12 straight possessions. After trailing 11-10, they finished the first quarter on a 23-0 run to put the game away early. And like The Czech Republic before them, China was overwhelmed by the U.S. onslaught.
Tina Thompson led the way, stroking a pair of long threes during the 23-0 run, and shooting 5-for-6 from the field in the period. By herself, she outscored China 15-11 in the first.
"Tonight Tina did a great job stepping up our team," Lisa Leslie, who finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds, said after the game. "She shot the ball really well."
Thompson and her teammates didn't exactly cool off in the second quarter either, shooting 13-for-20 and committing just one turnover in the period. By halftime they had more than doubled up on China and led by 34. That both Leslie and Candace Parker were in foul trouble early in the second quarter was of no consequence.
And of course, in holding China scoreless on 13 straight possessions at one point, and to just 27 points in the half, the U.S. defense wasn't too shabby either.
"Tonight Tina was on fire and we were able to get a lot of stops," Sue Bird said, "and from those stops we were able to score. I think the combination of those two things really got us going offensively."
There was not much to complain about on this night for the U.S. They probably committed too many fouls and they only won the third quarter by a point, but overall, it was a dominating performance on both ends of the floor, and it was another opportunity to develop on-court chemistry.
"I think we really improved," Leslie said. "We took another step forward from a defensive perspective. We moved the ball around and shared it. I just thought it was an awesome performance by the whole team."
Awesome is a good way to describe it.
Thompson finished with 27 points on 10-of-14 from the field. Sylvia Fowles struggled a bit early on, but she used the extended garbage time to get back the rhythm that she had going against the Czechs on Saturday. She finished with 18 points and eight boards.
"It's an orchestra," Leslie said, "different players are going to have solos, but as long as we're all playing our instruments on tune, we're going to be great."
As a team, the U.S. shot 57 percent from the field, including 5-of-10 from beyond the arc. At 2-0, they are already alone atop the Group B standings. Next up is Mali, the only team in the group without a win, so expect more of the same.
But no matter whom the opponent, every game is important.
"We haven't had the practice time that a lot of teams have," Bird said, "and every minute that we're on that court is practice time."
Practice makes perfect, after all. And from the way they looked on Monday, they're almost there.