U.S. men's basketball team beats Spain, will play for 3rd straight gold
Americans on 24-game Olympic winning streak
By Brian Mahoney, The Associated Press
The U.S. Olympic men's basketball team is still a little better than Spain.
One more win and the Americans are again the best in the world.
The U.S. advanced to its third straight gold-medal game, beating Spain 82-76 on Friday in another tight matchup between the teams that met in the last two championship games.
Klay Thompson scored 22 points for the Americans, who will play Serbia on Sunday for their third consecutive Olympic title.
Serbia, which held Australia to just 14 points in the first half of Friday's other semifinal, won 87-61 to earn a chance at gold. Milos Teodosic led all Serbians with 22 points.
The U.S. was just good enough again against Spain, winning a much different game than the all-offence matchups that decided the last two gold-medal games. This one featured several technical fouls and neither team got into an offensive flow.
It was the lowest-scoring game for the Americans in the Olympics since the 2004 semifinals, when they managed 81 in a loss to Argentina.
"They are not playing as well as other times they've played, but they are still a very talented team individually," Spain's Pau Gasol said. "I just [feel] like if we had been a little sharper with our shots, if we would have moved the ball a little better, if we would have boxed out more, and make it a two- or three-possession game, then you're talking about a whole different story."
But DeAndre Jordan made his presence felt in the middle with 16 rebounds and four blocked shots to go with his nine points.
Kevin Durant added 14 points on the day he moved past LeBron James into second place on the U.S. Olympic career scoring list. Kyrie Irving had 13 for the U.S.
"This is where we wanted to be," Durant said. "We talked about it all summer and to be here for the final game, to win the gold, for all the marbles, we like our chances."
Gasol scored 23 points for Spain, which made it tough on the Americans for the third straight Olympics, but again had to settle for coming close against the world's No. 1 team.
Struggling offence masked by improved defence
The Americans pulled away to win 118-107 in 2008 and held on for a 107-100 victory in London. Those were all-action contests, but the defences made their mark in this one. Spain shot just 39 per cent and couldn't get any consistent option other than Gasol, who played with a wrap covering his sore right calf.
"I think the key of the game was their defence," Spain coach Sergio Scariolo said. "Their athleticism, their size, they made our offence get difficult during most of the possessions."
It was the kind of defence the Americans thought they could play but hadn't much in the tournament. Serbia and France both surpassed 90 points against them and Australia scored 88, as the team with 10 Olympic newcomers took longer than hoped in grasping international offences.
This time they contained a team that was as explosive as themselves over the last four games, as Spain had averaged 97.3 points and won by more than 25 per game after dropping its first two in Brazil.
The Americans finally built a comfortable lead when they opened the fourth quarter with six straight points to go ahead 72-57. But Spain was able to keep the gap from getting any bigger and chipped away at it in the final minutes, the margin ending up smaller than in the previous matchups.
With files from CBC Sports