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Spain pushes USA, but too much LeBron, CP3, Durant makes USA golden

Aug 12, 2012, 1:01 PM EDT

US forward Kevin Durant and US forward L

Spain had what they needed — spark plug Juan Carlos-Navarro couldn’t miss early and would not let the USA run away with the game. Pau Gasol took it right to the USA’s weakness in the second half and had 15 points in the third quarter to put his team ahead at one point.

But the USA had what they needed. They had 30 points from Kevin Durant who was so hot Spain was forced to go to a box-and-1 defense to shut him down. Chris Paul pressured on defense and controlled the tempo, then made key buckets late. Then LeBron James capped off as great a year as a basketball player could have — NBA MVP, NBA champion, gold medal — with key baskets to help the USA seal the game in the fourth quarter.

It ended 107-100 and the USA didn’t just win the gold medal, they had to earn it.

It was a fun, entertaining game for fans from the start — both teams started out shooting well. For Spain it was former Grizzlies guard Juan Carlos Navarro knocking down threes (12 of first 16 points for Spain). On the other side Kobe Bryant (who finished with 17) and Durant were knocking down buckets. Both teams were working the ball inside-out. Spain played a zone but early the USA drove down the lane and shot over the top of it.

So when Spain started to miss a little the USA went on a 10-2 run and they were up nine quickly. The USA hit 7-of-10 threes in the first quarter and they cannot be beat by anyone when those shots are falling. Kevin Durant finished with a game-high 30 points and 156 for the entire Olympics — the most any single player has scored in an Olympic tournament. Ever. Durant has cemented himself as the best pure scorer on the planet right now.

But when the USA’s threes don’t fall, the USA can be caught. Especially when they don’t defend well. Spain answer on a 14-2 run early in the second quarter and Spain kept it a one-point play at the half because their guards hung with the USA’s guards. Some overzealous officiating helped Spain as well as there were 22 fouls called in the second half, destroying any flow to the game. The USA needs that flow.

In the third, Pau Gasol showed all of us why he is so deadly in the post (Lakers fans should hope Mike Brown was watching and realizes he needs to get Gasol post touches, not have him live at the elbow). Gasol hit a running hook over Tyson Chandler, he spun and dunked around Kevin Love. Gasol had 15 points in the third quarter and finished with 24 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists.

It was 83-82 USA after three quarters. But Spain rested Pau and the USA went on a 12-4 run to stretch out their lead, a lead they never relinquished.

In part because Chris Paul was probably the best player on the floor in the second half. (Even with all the additions he may well be the best player in Los Angeles next year.) He pressured the Spanish guards up high on defense — Spain hit no threes in the second half after 7 in the first half. CP3 controlled the tempo of the game and late hit a three and had a nifty little drive for a bucket. But he controlled the flow, he was the floor general.

Then when Spain would make a push, LeBron pushed back. He hit a three, he played a two-man handoff game with Durant that led to a dunk (their two man handoff pick-and-roll was the USA’s best play through the Olympics). Durant didn’t have a big fourth quarter but because he had been so key earlier Spain focused their defense on him and that opened things up. Then there were good plays by Kobe and others.

It was too much. Spain played well but their problem was they were not the better, deeper, more talented team. They needed the USA’s help to win and the USA’s best players wouldn’t give it to them. They stepped up.

And so for the 14th time since Olympic basketball started, the USA is golden.

  1. miamatt - Aug 12, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    When Lebron threw down that crushing dunk, followed by a spot up three late, you knew it was over.

    • connaniii - Aug 12, 2012 at 7:15 PM

      Pure adrenalin on that play; I had never seen him leap so high…his head was clearly above the rim!

  2. metalhead65 - Aug 12, 2012 at 1:28 PM

    congrats you won now this should end all talk about how much better you are than the dream team. the rest of the world may have improved but there is no excuse for oly winning by 7 points. a real dream team would have won by at least 20. and if the team had anyone but his boy lebron on the team kurt would have been ripping the team for not blowing away the opposition.

    • holdthemayo123 - Aug 12, 2012 at 1:55 PM

      Who is giving you thumbs down? This team isn’t even close to the ’92 team.

      • metalhead65 - Aug 12, 2012 at 2:05 PM

        must be kurt and the rest of the lebron team worshipers.

    • kinggw - Aug 12, 2012 at 2:16 PM

      Thats funny that you are able to assume what the original Dream Team would have done against a talented Spain team. The Croatian team the original Dream Team beat for the gold medal had three NBA players on their team (Petrovic,Kukoc, and Radja) none of them all stars. The Spanish team has six guys( Gasol bros, Ibaka, Rodriguez, Calderon, and Fernandez) who play or have played in the NBA with two of them being all stars. Its asinine to assume that the Dream Team would have walked over the Spaniards the way they did the Croatians when the teams they faced 20 years ago didnt have half the talent they do now.

      • Kurt Helin - Aug 12, 2012 at 8:49 PM

        Actually, 9 guys from Spain played or play in the NBA.

      • metalhead65 - Aug 12, 2012 at 10:06 PM

        how many hall of famers were on the dream team? how many hall of famers are on the team from spain? just because they play in the NBA does not make them as good as the guys on the dream team. the current team is the one who started all the talk about beating the best team ever so they invited the flack they got for talking that nonsense.

      • tomtravis76 - Aug 12, 2012 at 10:18 PM

        Toni had not played in the NBA , yet, hence the great story that unfolded of Pippen and Jordan displaying their defensive dominance against the guy Krause felt could replace Pippen.

      • raysfan1 - Aug 13, 2012 at 12:13 AM

        How many players on the current Team USA will be hall of farmers? Don’t know yet. Agree it’s a ridiculous debate. There is simply no way of knowing how a game between the two would have turned out. On the one hand it’s true that this year’s Spain team almost certainly would have beaten the 1992 Croatia team on paper. Also it was realized before the tournament this year that Spain matched up well with USA’s biggest areas of concern, and it showed today. However, the Dream Team was one of the chief inspirations that led to the international growth of the game and thus why this year’s team faced better completion in the first place.

        As I said, it’s obviously impossible to say who would have won between the two, but the Dream Team is certainly the most influential and is for that reason the greatest Olympic basketball team.

      • rtfinch - Aug 13, 2012 at 8:16 AM

        Actually it’s pretty obvious. Gasol had his way vs the U.S. interior, you dont think David Robinson and Patrick Ewing would have 30, and the 2012 ball pressure wouldn’t affect the 92 guards. 92 Dream Team by atleast 15.

    • cosanostra71 - Aug 12, 2012 at 2:34 PM

      Only 7 points? Close doesn’t count in basketball.

  3. josh928 - Aug 12, 2012 at 1:33 PM

    So even though lebron has an amazing season like this….were still gonna hear people say crap like “Kobe has more rings” “Jordan has more to rings” “lebron couldn’t do it alone” lame..

  4. papichulo55 - Aug 12, 2012 at 1:45 PM

    Instead of all of this self-flaggelation, why not just congratulate Spain on a well played Gold Medal game? The rest of the world is ready to compete with us in everything. And the USA will win. And sometimes we will be contested. Again, good game, Spain. Enjoy your Silver Medals….

  5. 49erminer4life - Aug 12, 2012 at 1:55 PM

    Am I the only 1 that thought it was odd odd not seeing iggy and doug collins shake hands at the end. I mean he talked about bynum before the game started. They showed 4 or 5 players with collins but no iggy.

  6. frn27 - Aug 12, 2012 at 2:00 PM

    Everyone gets nostalgic about the era they saw their greats play in and they love to plate then in gold, idealistic statues that no one can ever move as if no player can ever even lick the dirt if their shoes. Greatest of their era is a better way to describe a player in team sports and no one, I mean no one has ever won a championship in team sports by themselves. Not Kobe, Not Lebron, Not Jordan, Wade, Magic, Dirk, Duncan….no one. I don’t know where I was going with that but there it is.

  7. shockexchange - Aug 12, 2012 at 2:15 PM

    The story of the game was the play of Pau Gasol. A few years ago when he said he preferred the international game – which involved more passing and team play – to the NBA, make no mistake, he was throwing shade at Horry Jr.

  8. kenyanteg123 - Aug 12, 2012 at 2:17 PM

    I don’t care what anyone says. You guys can’t sit here and tell me that Jordan is better than Lebron. Lebron would own Jordan if they were both in their primes.And I’m not even a Lebron fan. I’m a Cavs fan. I hate Lebron. But when you look at this dude play, it’s just crazy how good he is. Jordan couldn’t hang with Lebron. He’s too athletic and too fast.

    • davidly - Aug 12, 2012 at 2:40 PM

      At this stage in Jordan’s career, he was retiring for the first time, and there was no doubt that he was the best basketball player the game had seen.

      If James retired today, would people really say the same?

    • tomtravis76 - Aug 12, 2012 at 4:49 PM

      You make it sound like Jordan was from the Bob Cousey era with one handed dribblers by implying Jordan is not athletic.

      The debate is Jordan, Magic, Wilt, Bill, Bird, Lebron, Kobe,Kareem, Dr. J and Oscar and it is almost impossible to compare any of them. The one thing about Jordan is he dominated his era and has the championships and other hardware to show for it. Lebron has more titles coming and will forever be considered one of the greatest to ever lace them them up when he is done playing.

    • 24thesho - Aug 12, 2012 at 6:59 PM

      Here are the differences between MJ and LBJ:

      First of all, Dominique Wilkins, Clyde Drexler, Scottie Pippen, Sean Kemp and many other players in Michael’s era were quite athletic and great players.

      It seems that Michael, more often than not, consistently HIT THE BIG SHOTS IN THE BIGGEST OF MOMENTS throughout his career to the point the image of MJ is synonymous with hitting the big shot and usually closing strong, and, MJ has never shot an air ball in any major situation including the Olympics, at least to my recollection. People should stop making the comparisons to Jordan, it’s not even close, he was a basketball savant with few or perhaps NO weaknesses in his game and his b-ball IQ was far more superior than any of these players today. You really can’t say that about Kobe or Lebron and at times their weaknesses were displayed throughout the games in London, although Kobe is clearly getting older; they are both great, great players and besides, I don’t believe either one really thinks they are greater than Michael.

      Congratulations the USA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Teams on their Gold Medal victories!

      • Zammael - Aug 13, 2012 at 6:38 AM

        I remember Jordan shooting several airballs in the 1992 Finals vs Portland when he tried to post up Clyde Drexler – a bigger and stronger guard.

      • rtfinch - Aug 13, 2012 at 8:19 AM

        Yeah, when Clyde got his ring right? Oh wait, that didn’t happen.

    • 1historian - Aug 12, 2012 at 9:58 PM

      a 6’6″ 220 lb. shooting guard against a 6’8″ 250 lb. guy who can play every position.

      h,mmmmm…

      • rtfinch - Aug 13, 2012 at 8:23 AM

        Whose 250 lb? lebron is 270… and the 6’6 is better in the low post. And lebron himself said he cant play the 4 or 5 for 48 minutes, his legs get too tired. If you’re talking a couple plays here and there than most NBA players play 5 positions. In the western conference finals Ibaka was effictively guarding tony parker on switches, is he considered a top player of all time?

  9. davidly - Aug 12, 2012 at 2:28 PM

    Hats off to the Spanish team; they helped make it worth watching.

  10. kiopta1 - Aug 12, 2012 at 2:34 PM

    The 92 team was amazing but this team has the better athletes…I cant say better team cause they were built differently and the competition of the world has vastly improved. This team just has athletes that can play multi-positional basketball, score from anywhere, and play pretty solid D.

  11. bloggingainteazzy - Aug 12, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    Biggest LeBron fan there his but Jordan was fast and a great athlete too. It would be an interesting matchup for sure. To bad we will never see it!

  12. minnesota32 - Aug 12, 2012 at 3:04 PM

    What can you say Michael Jordan did better than Lebron James? Nothing. Lebron James is the best player of all time and I don’t care how many votes down I get. There’s no argument to be made other than people’s opinions on made up attributes that people blow out of proportion.

    • metalhead65 - Aug 12, 2012 at 3:11 PM

      you mean like you do with lebron? he may be the best today and of your generation but he is not better than Jordan and is in the top 10 maybe but most definatlly not the best of all time. start with Jordan,magic, Bird, oscar robinson,wilt, kareem,jerry west, bill russell. just because you were not around does not mean you get to dismiss the greats in favor of someone who is not even finished with his career yet.

    • 24thesho - Aug 12, 2012 at 7:06 PM

      Michael’s jump shot was much better and looked, his 3 point shooting was also better, and he closed out games more consistently than anyone in today’s NBA.

      • minnesota32 - Aug 13, 2012 at 12:04 AM

        Well through his first 9 seasons MJ was shooting 24.8% from 3 and Lebron is at 33.1% so maybe you should make arguments that are factual rather than just going off of popular opinions.

    • 24thesho - Aug 12, 2012 at 7:13 PM

      Dude, since you seem like you’re the generation that was not around, I suggest you get some Bulls championship vids and take notes, Youtube is there for you to search and “witness” the Real Deal.

      • 24thesho - Aug 13, 2012 at 6:38 AM

        @ minnesota32

        Well, Michael Jordan was still a better overall player, even if he was shooting 28% from the 3 point line for his first 9 seasons. You kids act like MJ played in the 1960s or somethin’. You can break out all of the stats you want, it still would not support your argument and comparisons. It’s all documented! Get the Bulls Championship season (both runs) on video or DVD, watch those thoroughly and then get Lebron’s video footage and carefully watch his path and the way he plays or has played. As a matter of fact, watch both histories back to back, then you can get back at me. Just one more question, how many point guards in the NBA today (now) are as great as Magic Johnson was (especially, in terms of visual aesthetics) when he was 20 years old and years after that?

      • minnesota32 - Aug 13, 2012 at 10:38 AM

        So let me get this straight, in your eyes, stats don’t matter even though that’s the only way to impartially compare the games of the two and not let personal feelings affect your choice. Makes sense.

  13. hmax13 - Aug 12, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    How fitting was it to see Davis pull down that last rebound to end the game… The Future

  14. funktron2x - Aug 12, 2012 at 4:25 PM

    @Metalhead: No way. Spain has a bunch of NBA players. I think maybe as many as the 1992 olympics had at all – and those guys were mostly scrubs. This is the new era of world basketball. Every major country now has nba stars.

    • metalhead65 - Aug 12, 2012 at 10:10 PM

      and how many of those nba playes are hall of fame players? I believe the 92 team had more than a couple if I am not mistaken.

  15. spfinne - Aug 12, 2012 at 5:06 PM

    kenyanteg123….. only 3 possibilities… either 1) you flat out don’t watch much basketball 2) you are too young to have watched jordan play much or 3) you are simply an idiot. not sure which you are but definitely one of them. I love Lebron but Jordan is the best player ever to pick up a basketball. case closed

  16. spfinne - Aug 12, 2012 at 5:15 PM

    Minnesota32….. same comment applies to you. Lebron can’t score like Jordan, Lebron is no comparison to Jordan under pressure, and Lebron cannot dominate and take over a game like Jordan did. Also could not shoot free throws as well as Jordan especially under pressure and does not have the range Jordan had. other than that your right they are equal. haha crazy people… and I am a Lebron fan.

    • rtfinch - Aug 13, 2012 at 8:27 AM

      Thats the thing, Lebron can dominate and take over like Jordan did, he proved it in game 6 vs the celtics, he just doesnt have the killer instinct that Jordan and Kobe have to do it routinely.

    • minnesota32 - Aug 13, 2012 at 10:50 AM

      MJ scored more points per game, but thats only because he took more shots. The most shots lebron has ever taken is in the 1800s while MJ took over 1800 shots 9 times. Now factor in how many more assists Lebron dishes out and it’s clear Lebron could average a lot more than his career average in points if he was just a scorer on offense like Jordan was. Lebron dominates the entire league which is why he just won his 3rd MVP in 4 years and there are still more to come as he hasnt even played his best ball yet. As far as range goes, like I said in a different comment, Jordan shot 24.8 from 3 through the same age as Lebron is now and Lebron is shooting 33.1 so clearly Lebron has better range. And if you gotta go to free throw percentage???? Really???? At least go to something like turnovers since Lebron turns the ball over more

  17. lakerluver - Aug 12, 2012 at 5:40 PM

    How did this become a “who is better” debate? Honestly, how can anyone say with certainty who is better between MJ, LeBron, or Kobe? All three were/are phenomenal players. And what about Wilt, Kareem, Magic, or Oscar? Wilt averaged 50 and 25, does that mean he’s the GOAT? Kareem scored the most pts and has the most MVP’s, is he the best ever? Oscar is the only player to average a triple-double for a whole season. Magic, playing pg at 6′ 8″ was maybe the most unique player the league has ever seen. My point is its all subjective.

  18. bryce722 - Aug 12, 2012 at 6:09 PM

    Hey I don’t know about you guys but it was great seeing these guys play and celebrate with each other. Especially seeing Kobe and Lebron play together. When it is all set and done I feel that we were blessed to see two of the top 10 greatest players to lace up in Kobe and Lebron represent USA. As far as these comparisons go I dont really like to compare the two because it’s not fair that, Kobe even though still great, is on the downside of his career whereas Lebron is in his prime. Plus comparing them to Jordan I really cant do since it would be biased on my part because I wasnt old enough to see a prime Jordan play.

  19. isujames - Aug 12, 2012 at 6:53 PM

    This game was to close Dream Team 1 would have destroyed Spain.

  20. Chris Fiorentino - Aug 12, 2012 at 7:40 PM

    First, congrats to the USA men’s basketball team on winning yet another gold medal. Tough game against a Spain team who played the game of their lives and almost pulled out the upset.

    Second, as was said above me, this should put to rest any talk of this team being close to as good as the Dream Team. There’s two ways to look at it…how would this team do against the Dream Team and how would the Dream Team do against today’s competition. It is definitely two different questions.

    To answer the first question…as was evident today, any team with size is going to give the 2012 team fits. The Dream Team had some all-time size with Ewing and Robinson. Ask yourself honestly…who on this team is going to guard either of those guys? Tyson Chandler? Kevin Love? LOL. I said ask HONESTLY. Spain rolled out a couple of guys(The Gasol Brothers) who, while very skilled, aren’t in the class of Ewing and the Admiral, and those guys pretty much dominated the paint. I shudder to think how badly this team would get destroyed in the paint with guys like Robinson, Ewing, Malone, and Charles. Would the 2012 team ever get a rebound? Otherwise, I think the 2012 team would play pretty well against the 1992 team. Their size would kill them and they’d probably lose by 10-12 points on average.

    To answer the second question, I don’t think there is any question the Dream Team would dominate today’s international competition. Not as much as they did in 1992, but they would still dominate. A game like today’s, for instance, would not have been much of a contest. Why? Because the US could match Spain with size. And when Jordan, who could score better than Durant, heats up, and when Spain puts their gimicky box and 1 on him, who is he finding on the wings? Oh, only some of the greatest shooters in the history of basketball. Can you imaging guys like Mullen and Bird getting the looks that Carmelo/CP3/Kobe were getting in this game when they started the Box and 1? Oh my Lord…I would love to see the invention of the time machine just to bring that team to play todays game to see the threes raining from the rafters.

    Remember…Chuck Daly never called a timeout the entire 1992 Olympics. Think about that one. Zero time outs. NOBODY went on 14-2 runs against that team. Today’s Spain wasn’t going to get one against the Dream Team either.

    Again..congrats to the 2012 team. Congrats to Lebron too…he’s the best player in the world right now. He needs to carry the Heat to another 2 or 3 championships before we start talking about him and Jordan. But give him his due this season…he was a freaking beast.

  21. charlescub80 - Aug 12, 2012 at 7:56 PM

    @ kenyantene

    Thank you for your comments. I needed a good laugh!

  22. charlescub80 - Aug 12, 2012 at 8:00 PM

    @minnesota

    I also want to thank you for your insight. Made me laugh even harder!

  23. 1historian - Aug 12, 2012 at 10:00 PM

    Re. – MJ v. LBJ as GOAT.

    Just for today – the day we won the gold – let’s just suspend the argument and be thankful that they BOTH play for the USA?

  24. mannyicey - Aug 13, 2012 at 5:12 AM

    OK, great win for the USA. It’s good to root for Lebron again, because he’s the best in the game right now. GOAT? Jordan, so stop it! Lebron needs a few more rings and carry a team with only one other superstar on it in order to even be put in consideration. But Lebron looks like he can give Magic a run, though.

    This team vs. Dream Team? Dream Team. The make up of the team was too solid. The 1992 team had the athleticism, the experience and the SIZE to match up against any of them. Spain put the Gasol bros. and/or Ibaka and we could only counter with one really solid big man (Chandler) and a couple of Forwards that played out of position (Kevin Love, Durant, Lebron and Carmelo). With the Dream Team, they would have had to deal with two Centers (Ewing and David Robinson) and some Forwards whose names includes Malone and Barkley.

    Even though International play is better, all you have to do is compare who you would pick- position by position, to start for your Olympic basketball team in order to see what team was better. Go ahead!

    PG- Magic or Chris Paul? (Magic , for me.)
    SG- Jordan or Kobe? (What?)
    SF- Bird or Durant? (Bird, though Durant would have replaced Mullins)
    PF- Barkley or Lebron? (Lebron.)
    C- Ewing or Chandler? (Ewing.)

    Oh, and if you looked at the 1992 bench, some of them would have started for the 2012 team (See David Robinson, Clyde Drexler, or maybe Karl Malone.)

    In short, only Durant, Kobe and Lebron could have even made the 1992 team and only Lebron would have started, improved international play or not.

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