BEIJING: The United States won the gold medal in Olympic men’s basketball on Sunday with a 118-107 victory over Spain.
Culminating a three-year mission to end years of embarrassment, the U.S. Olympic team survived a huge challenge from Spain in the gold-medal game.
After overwhelming everyone for seven games, the Americans led by only four points with under two-and-a-half minutes to play, then proved they could handle the close game that seemed would never come in Beijing.
Their prize: the first U.S. gold medal since the 2000 Olympics. Dwyane Wade scored 27 points for the Americans, who found a much gamer Spanish team than the one they humiliated by 37 points earlier in the tournament. Kobe Bryant added 20.
In a game so devoid of defence that it felt more like an NBA All-Star game than one with a title at stake, the Americans had too much offence down the stretch. Bryant converted a clutch four-point play with 3:10 remaining, holding his finger to his lips to quiet the Spanish crowd behind the basket.
Wade added another 3-pointer that made it 111-104 with just over two minutes left, and only then could the Americans relax a little.
They began to celebrate during a break after some technical fouls on Spain with 26 seconds left, then celebrated at mid-court when it was over with “Born in the USA” blaring over the arena’s speakers.
Nobody else had been close to the Americans in Beijing. This team’s only Olympic competition had been history, in a dream match-up with guys named Jordan, Magic, Bird and the rest of the U.S. team that dominated the Barcelona Games in 1992.
Forget comparisons to those guys. The Americans were lucky to be better than Spain on Sunday. Rudy Fernandez scored 22 points and Pau Gasol had 21 for Spain, the reigning World champion which was hoping to win its first Olympic gold.
The Americans had won their first seven games by 30.3 points, including a 119-82 rout of Spain. But they never had control of this game, giving up open looks from the perimeter and plenty of points in the paint.
But Bryant hit two three-pointers in a big fourth quarter to add the gold medal to the only piece of hoops hardware he didn’t already own..
Spain hit seven of its first nine shots, leading for much of the first quarter. A quick burst of 10 points by James and Wade had the U.S. advantage up to 14 points with four minutes left in the half, but Spain chipped away and trailed only 69-61 at the break.
Spain was within four on a number of occasions in the third, and Fernandez’s three-pointer cut it down to 91-89 with 8:13 remaining. Bryant answered with a bucket, later added a 3, and things seemed safe when James scored to make it 103-92.
Spain made one last push to close within 108-104 on Carlos Jimenez’s three-pointer, but Wade hit one on the other end, and the final score became lopsided when the Americans hit a bunch of free throws after the Spanish became frustrated and were called for the technicals.
7 months ago