LeBron James scored 20 points and was a defensive force today in his exhibition debut, helping the U.S. Olympic basketball team overcome some early sloppy play to beat Turkey 114-82 in its first game in China.
Carmelo Anthony added 17 points and Dwight Howard had some powerful dunks while finishing with 14.
The Americans allowed 10 field goals in the first quarter, then only 10 combined over the next two periods. They improved to 2-0 in Olympic tuneup play and face Lithuania here Friday before moving on to Shanghai for their remaining two games.
James was 8-of-9 from the field and finished with six rebounds, five steals and four assists in 23 minutes, sitting out the fourth quarter.
The NBA's leading scorer sprained his right ankle when he stepped on another player's foot during a scrimmage early last week. The injury was considered mild and James likely could have played Friday against Canada, but the U.S. staff opted to rest him to avoid further swelling before the long flight to Asia.
He said before practice Wednesday he was ready and needed just seconds to prove it, grabbing a rebound on the first possession of the game and driving the length of the court for the opening basket.
The next 15 minutes were a struggle, even against an opponent without NBA players Hedo Turkoglu and Mehmet Okur.
The Americans yielded an alarming number of open shots and offensive rebounds for most of the first half and committed 10 turnovers. Even beating the quicker U.S. team downcourt on a couple of occasions, Turkey used a 10-2 spurt to grab a 27-24 lead on Ender Arslan's 3-pointer with 1:42 remaining in the first quarter. The Americans were ahead just 31-30 after the period.
Turkey was still close late into the second before James seized control on both ends. He rebounded his own miss for a 10-point lead, came up with a steal and made a free throw, then leaped high for a one-handed dunk off an alley-oop pass from Kobe Bryant for a 50-37 lead. Another steal by James led to Howard's dunk and a 15-point cushion.
James had 12 points in the half and added eight more and some of the game's highlight plays in the third. Following a basket by Turkey, he took the ball out and whipped a pass to the other end of the court to a streaking Dwyane Wade for a dunk. A minute later, James had another steal and passed ahead to Kobe Bryant, who bounced it in front of the basket to Anthony for a dunk.
Wade and Chris Bosh each scored 13 points and Chris Paul added 12 points and six assists.
Cenk Akyol had 22 points for Turkey. Turkoglu, the Orlando forward voted the most improved player in the NBA last season, shot around before the game and was introduced with the rest of the team, but apparently was not cleared to play for an undisclosed reason.
Turkey didn't qualify for the Olympics and has an automatic berth into the 2010 world championships as the host country.
James scores 20 in debut as U.S. carves up Turkey