LONDON, ENG—Two Olympic games removed from an embarrassing bronze finish in Athens, Team USA basketball recaptured the gold Sunday in London.
Spain proved to be a much more worthy foe than any the Americans have faced in the tournament. After a 26-point win over Argentina, it was hard to imagine the U.S. having any difficulty with the Spaniards.
But channeling the mantra of their soccer counterparts, the "Red Fury" came to play.
A 35-27 American first quarter boded well for the Americans, as Spain would rather play the game in the 80s than in the 100s.
Spain would hang in, however, and head to halftime down just one at 59-58.
The story of the first half was Spanish captain, Juan-Carlos Navarro, who scored 19 points through the first two quarters. Officiating also helped the Spanish. Although the fouls were called evenly, 22 whistles in the 2nd quarter alone helped the Spanish in their efforts to slow the tempo.
The whistles also hindered both teams. At halftime, Deron Williams had 3 fouls and Marc Gasol had 4 (5 is the International limit).
Pau, who led Spain with 24 points, often took advantage of his match-up against the smaller Kevin Love or Carmelo Anthony.
At the end of the third, the score was 83-82.
Up until now, Team USA had pulled away from any close contests in the third quarter. Failing to do so in this game was proof of the quality of the Spanish team. In the fourth, the American jump shooting improved, yet the Spanish remained in the game.
The 7-point margin was the second smallest of the Olympics for the U.S. In Beijing 2008, Team USA beat Spain as the "Redeem Team" took back the gold after a disappointing Athens campaign.
There have been some rumors that the Olympic basketball format will change in the near future as to not include pro players past the age of 23.
As for the current Team USA, Coach K and Kobe Bryant have already decided that this was their last Olympic games.
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