RIO DE JANEIRO—The U.S. men’s basketball team passed its toughest test so far, defeating the reigning European champion and defending Olympic silver medalists Spain 82-76. The Americans await the result of the second semifinal, between Australia and Serbia, to learn who they’ll play in Sunday afternoon’s gold medal game.
Here are three thoughts on the U.S. team’s 24th straight Olympic victory since 2004.
The Medal-Round Resurrection of Kevin Durant Continued Apace ...
... and as a further treat for Golden State fans, Durant’s future Warriors teammate Klay Thompson joined the fun. Thompson wound up with 22 points, including four threes. Durant only scored 14, but he combined with Thompson for 12 of the first 16 U.S. points as the Americans seized a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Durant added eight rebounds and Thompson contributed three assists, including two sweet off-the-dribble-drive alley-oops to DeAndre Jordan.
All that K.D. energy might have extended too far, as he picked up a second-quarter technical for contesting a non-call on a missed shot. But the U.S. will take that kind of collateral damage in exchange for him playing a leadership role. Durant even stood on the sideline for parts of the second half waving a towel to cheer on his teammates.
Marc Gasol Would Have Made a Difference
At a press conference two days ago, an under-informed reporter asked Mike Krzyzewski how the Americans would handle the Gasol brothers. “I’ll take credit for Marc,” the U.S. coach volunteered, to laughs from those who knew what the reporter didn’t: Pau’s bulkier brother, Marc, a 7’1” All-Star with the Memphis Grizzlies, sat out the Games to fully recover from a foot injury suffered in February.
Nikola Mirotic has had a wonderful Olympics, but he picked up his third and fourth fouls in the second quarter, including a technical after protesting the third. If you’re going to beat the U.S., you’ll need to bring a world-class banger off the bench, and today neither of the two 6’9” guys, Victor Claver and Felipe Reyes, nor 6’10” 22-year-old Willy Hernangomez, proved up to the task.
The U.S. Should Cheer For Australia in the Next Semifinal
Which team would have a better chance of beating the U.S. in the gold medal game?
The Aussies have been the most spirited team of the tournament and are probably overachieving as a result. The Serbs have been among the most precise and disciplined—and nearly beat the U.S. in group play.
It says here that in a gold medal with the U.S., science would trump spirit.