It wasn’t easy or pretty. There were a lot of whistles, many players in foul trouble; but a lot of heroic performances in a memorable Gold Medal game between The United States and Spain. In the end, The United States came out on top, but Spain saved their best for last.
It was a back and forth game between the Americans and Spanish during Sunday’s Gold Medal game. The whole world was watching and these two teams didn’t disappoint. Some people might not be impressed by Team USA‘s seven-point victory over Spain, but Spain isn’t any chump. They are loaded with the top EURO players in the world and two NBA All-Stars. They had a significant size advantage over Team USA and it came into play during Sunday’s matchup.
The United States got off to a hot start, leading 35-27 after the first quarter behind 12 points from Kevin Durant and eight points off the bench from Carmelo Anthony.
But Spain didn’t go away. They outscored Team USA 31-24 in the second quarter, cutting Team USA’s lead to one point after 20 minutes. Spain was led by fancy guard Juan Carlos Navarro’s 19 first-half points and Rudy Fernandez added 12 points.
The third quarter was played to a draw, 24-24. Spain was able to take the lead for a moment, but Team USA quickly responded. With Team USA down 71-70, Kobe Bryant drained a three-pointer to give Team USA a 73-71 lead. Spain’s Serge Ibaka made one of two free-throws, cutting the lead back to one before a Kevin Durant jumper and two Bryant free-throws stretched the lead to five points. Both teams went back and forth for the remaining 3:22 before Ibaka made two free-throws to cut Team USA’s lead to one point at the end of the third quarter.
Despite me not mentioning his name, Pau Gasol dominated the third quarter. In the 10 minute quarter, Gasol had 15 points on perfect shooting (6-6 FG).
The stage was set for an epic fourth quarter.
After playing suspect ball through three quarters, point guard Chris Paul started to assert his dominance for the first time during the Olympics. In the first four minutes of the fourth, Paul had five points, one assist and a steal to help Team USA extend its lead to seven points with 6:09 left.
Spain never got closer than six points for the rest of the game. After Spain cut the lead to six points with 2:27 left, LeBron James stepped-up and hit a huge three-pointer to extend the lead back to nine points.
Spain was unable to make one last run.
James capped-off one of the greatest seasons in NBA history. A year in which he won NBA MVP, NBA Finals MVP, a championship, and now, a Gold Medal in the 2012 Olympic Games. Durant led the way with 30 points, but it was clear that this was James’ team from the start. He finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Bryant chipped-in with 17 points after struggling earlier in the Olympics, mainly because he wasn’t in a rhythm. Team USA battled foul trouble throughout the game, especially when James picked up his fourth foul with 7:23 left in the fourth. [Carmelo] Anthony and Kevin Love also battled foul trouble, each finishing with four fouls.
Thankfully, Team USA wasn’t the only team in foul trouble. Spain’s Marc Gasol recorded his fourth foul in the FIRST HALF and Rudy Fernandez fouled out. Pau led the way for with 24 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Navarro scored 21 points, but only two after the halftime intermission. Pau’s brother, Marc, finished with 17 points on 8-10 field goals and Fernandez had 14 points before fouling out. Even the sparsely-used Ibaka had 12 points and nine rebounds in 22 minutes of play.
At the end of the day, the American stars of the NBA were too much for the world’s second best team. Mike Krzyzewski capped-off his run as Team USA’s coach with a 62-1 record and two Olympic Gold Medals in six years of work. The only loss Coach Krzyzewski suffered during his tenure came back in 2006 against Greece in the FIBA World Championships.
It was a great run and, hopefully, the “core” of this group will be up for the challenge when the 2016 Olympic Games roll around. It was awesome to cover this team on my own time and it was a joy to watch them play basketball and grow as a team.
It will be fun to see what these players bring back to their respective teams when the season starts at the end of October.
Until then, I can focus on my NBA Preview and it should be a great year.
Take care everyone and don’t forget to share these posts with your friends.