LONDON (Olympics) - The United States Men's Team made it two Olympic gold medals in a row as they beat Spain
107-100 in the Final of the London 2012 Olympic Basketball Tournament.
In a re-match of the 2008 Final from the Beijing Games, the USA pulled away from Spain in the fourth quarter thanks to big plays by star players Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Chris Paul.
Entering the final frame with an 83-82 lead, Paul scored five quick points to help the Americans go up 90-84.
Marc Gasol cut it to 90-86 before Durant buried his fifth three-pointer of the game and Bryant hit a pair of free-throws before scoring inside off of an offensive rebound for a 97-87 advantage.
Spain got within 97-91 as Rudy Fernandez tipped in Sergio Llull's miss on a fastbreak with 3:40 remaining, but James then had a thundering dunk and later knocked down a clutch three-pointer despite being closely guarded by Marc Gasol to make it 102-93 going into the final two minutes of the game.
Paul beat the shot clock inside the final minute to make it 104-93.
The Spaniards then played the clock, sending the Americans to the free-throw line, but the strategy didn't work as they couldn't make their own shots.
Durant finished with a game-high 30 ppoints, James added 19, Bryant had 17 and Paul had 11.
Pau Gasol had 24 points for the two-time European champions Spain, while Juan Carlos Navarro added 21 and Marc Gasol had 17 despite limited minutes because of foul trouble.
"It was very similar in a lot of ways to 2008," Paul said afterwards of the game, comparing it to the Final from Beijing.
"We never could really put that run together that we put against other teams in this tournament and I command Spain for a well-played game. Our guys made big plays when we needed.
Paul talked about stepping up his play in the fourth quarter.
"All game I was sort of frustrated with myself because I wasn't taking my shots. Coach kept telling me to shoot. So the fourth quarter, it's winning time so it was time - now or never. We didn't play all this basketball and train this hard to come over here and lose," he said.
He also explained what it was like to be a part of this team, which consisted of the 2008 Olympic gold medalists and members of the 2010 FIBA World Championship winning side.
"It feels good to win again with the guys from the 2008 team and it was a great group of guys overall. This is probably the best team I'll ever be on. I'm going to miss these guys and I hate that in a couple of months from now they're going to be my enemies. This was one of the best experiences of my life.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance and I did it twice. Nothing compares to this.
"The international game is even better than 2008 and it's going to continue to get better. That's why we try to practice and always come here knowing we're going to have a battle."
The Final got off to a fast and furious pace.
The USA raced out to a 35-27 first quarter lead thanks to some hot shooting as they hit seven of their 10 three-point attempts in the period.
Bryant and Carmelo Anthony each made their two attempts from beyond the arc, Deron Williams connected on his only try and Durant was two of five.
Early on, Navarro himself had the touch from the distance, hitting three three-pointers as Spain went up 12-7 three minutes into the game.
Bryant then hit his two three-pointers either side of Durant making a pair of free-throws - resulting from an unsportsmanlike foul on Jose Calderon - and the Americans were up 15-12.
Later in the period, Anthony came off the bench and provided an instant offensive boost as the USA used a 7-0 run to pull away 25-16. They had their first double-digit lead, 35-25, when Durant scored from long range.
Spain finished the first quarter with a highlight play as Sergio Rodriguez found Rudy Fernandez going baseline for an alley-oop dunk.
Sergio Scariolo's men kept making inroads into the lead as Fernandez buried a corner three-point before Pau Gasol scored inside.
Rodriguez edged them in front 39-37 with 7:23 left in the half.
However, at the other end of the court, their inability to box out allowed Kevin Love to grab some offensive boards and he made four free-throws to put his team up 50-44.
Mike Krzyzewski's charges were back up eight, 58-51, when Williams hit from downtown.
The European champions finished the half well with an 8-1 run. All eight points came at the free-throw line. The last two came in the dying seconds as Andre Iguodala committed an unsportsmanlike foul on Fernandez who made good on both attempts from the charity stripe to get Spain within 59-58 as the teams headed to the locker room.
Foul trouble was an issue for Spain as Marc Gasol picked up his third and fourth fouls seconds apart in the second quarter. For the USA, Anthony went into halftime with three fouls.
Pau Gasol carried Spain early in the third quarter, scoring the team's first 11 points to keep the game close.
He converted a pair of three-point plays, the second of which cut the deficit to 71-70 midway through the period.
Durant and Bryant took over the scoring duties for the USA as they went up 77-72 on a pair of free-throws by the latter.
Rodriguez and Serge Ibaka provided a huge lift as the guard got a steal and turned it into a fastbreak lay-up that made it 80-76 and the big man then scored over Anthony to tie it at 80 with 1:54 left.
Durant hit a three-pointer and Ibaka scored once again as the USA went into the final quarter up 83-82.
The USA outscored Spain 24-18 in the final quarter.
Afterwards, Scariolo paid tribute to his team.
"I'm really proud of how our team competed tonight, throughout the tournament to overcome all the problems to go through. They did so with great commitment, togetherness, respect, discipline and talent but more than anything with character before skills," he said.
"Tonight we don't really know whether to be happy or sad but after a day or two passes, we will be proud and understand the greatness of this team.
He also had praise for the USA.
"They are an unbelievable group of players. It showed especially in the final seconds of possessions when we played great defense but they made even better shots that we couldn't defend."
Navarro, who battled foot and back injuries talked about the adversity his team faced.
"Congratulations to all my team...it's been complicated this year with injuries, including myself. We re-shaped the team and I think what we did was impressive," he said.
"No doubt we wanted to win the gold medal but we're half happy with the silver."
Like Paul, Navarro saw the similarities with the 2008 Final.
"It was quite similar in that the other game in 2008 we played well, matching them until the end of the game. We managed to stay in the game in the same way as we did back then. But the result is what matters. We wanted to make them nervous with three or four minutes to play and we didn't do that," he said.
|P||DURANT 30||GASOL 24|
|RB||DURANT 9||IBAKA 9|
|A||JAMES 4||GASOL 7|
|S||PAUL 3||RODRIGUEZ 2|
|B||DURANT 1||IBAKA 1|
(W/L: 7-0 )
|Points for (avg)||116,7|
|Points against (avg)||81|
|2 Points FG||59,7%|
|3 Points FG||44,5%|
(W/L: 5-2 )
|Points for (avg)||78,1|
|Points against (avg)||73,1|
|2 Points FG||49,8%|
|3 Points FG||32,8%|
|11||F. San Emeterio||SG||197/6'6"|