Image: Chinese hoops team
Elizabeth Dalziel  /  AP
Chinese center Yao Ming, center, along with his National Chinese teammates, Yi Jianglian, second left, Wang Zhizhi, second right and, Du Feng right, react, during the National Anthem moments before the start of the game between China and Angola, at the Diamond Ball tournament in Nanjing, China, on Tuesday. China won 83-74.
updated 7/29/2008 11:52:20 AM ET 2008-07-29T15:52:20

Yao Ming scored 21 points in 28 minutes to lead China past Angola 83-74 Tuesday, another step in his return from injury with less than two weeks until the Olympics.

The Houston Rockets center anchors a Chinese team that just weeks ago faced the prospect of entering the games without its 7-foot-6 star because of a stress fracture.

"Yao lets us really put the pressure on the opposition," China guard Liu Wei said after the opening day of the FIBA Diamond Ball tournament.

Also, defending Olympic champion Argentina beat Iran 81-71. Iran is making its first Olympic basketball appearance since 1948.

Rockets forward Luis Scola scored 23 points for Argentina and San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili added 15.

"I'm feeling good," Ginobili said. "I just want to feel even better and play more."

Yao made eight of his 10 shots and had five rebounds and was impressive running the court. He showed no sign of the injury to his left foot that ended his NBA season in February and threatened his Olympic participation.

Yao returned to light training late last month after tests in Houston showed his recovery was on schedule and he was about 80 percent healed. Such injuries usually take a year to fully heal.

Yao didn't score until nearly halfway through the second quarter. He then combined with former Shanghai Sharks teammate Liu to put China ahead 40-37 at the half.

The win avenges a 72-71 loss to Angola in an Olympic warmup tournament this month. The teams face each other Group B at the Olympics along with Germany, Greece, Spain and the United States.

China coach Jonas Kazlauskas said he would continue to play Yao for 25-30 minutes a game, but would also rely on former Dallas Mavericks center Wang Zhizhi to fill gaps. Wang had five points in about 22 minutes, while forward Yi Jianlian, recently acquired by the New Jersey Nets, had 11 points.

"Of course, we always expect more from our big men," the Lithuanian coach said.

Angola, the African champion, closed within three points in the last period but was then hurt by poor shooting.

"Yao Ming can score 20, 30 points, but the rest of the players can't hurt us," Angola forward Joaquim Gomes said. "But this time China played really well as a team."

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