Aug 12, 2012, 1:01 PM EDT
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.
Oct 31, 2014, 6:03 PM EDT
Varejao is one of LeBron James’ favorite teammates
Oct 31, 2014, 5:48 PM EDT
Butler’s agent claims the Bulls wanted him to take a hometown discount.
Oct 31, 2014, 5:22 PM EDT
Thompson’s max deal was inevitable.
Oct 31, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
It’s as great as you’d expect.
Oct 31, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT
Lopez has no timetable for a return.
Oct 31, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
Knight will be a restricted free agent this summer.
Oct 31, 2014, 2:33 PM EDT
LeBron’s agent also represents Jackson
Oct 31, 2014, 1:37 PM EDT
Oklahoma City has completely relied on its two – now injured – stars
Oct 31, 2014, 12:50 PM EDT
Are they certain this time?
Oct 31, 2014, 12:06 PM EDT
Utah betting big, too big, on Burks continuing to improve
Oct 31, 2014, 11:10 AM EDT
Clippers owner continues to go crazy while watching games
Oct 31, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT
Dirk, Monta and Chandler are the new Run DMC
Oct 31, 2014, 9:53 AM EDT
New coach didn’t give reserves enough playing time in Cleveland’s opener
Oct 31, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
Somehow, this seems to make sense for both sides
Oct 31, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT
Pregame rituals were really the best part of the game for Cavs fans.
Oct 31, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Faried said Smith shot his team out of the game after the Nuggets beat the Pistons.
Oct 31, 2014, 3:22 AM EDT
LeBron slides into the loser category for a night.
Oct 31, 2014, 3:10 AM EDT
The Clippers will take the win, but it wasn’t pretty.
Oct 31, 2014, 2:14 AM EDT
There is no official timetable for his return, but we are likely talking 6 weeks or more he is out.
Oct 31, 2014, 12:21 AM EDT
Players should never angrily engage with fans.
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