"To do it twice is a special moment," Carmelo Anthony said. "As the U.S. men's team, we go through a lot. For us to persevere the way we did is just a special moment for myself, and for the guys who are on this team."
For Kobe Bryant, it was his last Olympic moment.
"This is it for me," said Bryant, who scored 17 points and now has a second gold medal to go with his five NBA championships. "The other guys are good to go."
Pau Gasol scored 24 points and Juan Carlos Navarro had 21 for Spain, which was again just a few minutes from its first basketball gold but couldn't finish the job against the Americans.
The U.S. came in averaging nearly 117 points and stomping on their competition with such ease that even the Olympics' own daily preview had a hard time envisioning intrigue, writing that it would "likely take a great game from Spain and an off-day from the USA to cause an upset."
Well, Spain brought the great game and trailed by only a point heading into the fourth quarter.
But the Spanish somehow lost sight of James, and the game's best player drove uncontested and threw it down for a 99-91 lead with 2:48 left. After Marc Gasol dunked, James dribbled outside the circle with Marc Gasol giving him just a bit too much room, and James pulled up for the 3 that made it 102-93 with 1:59 to play.
Pau Gasol then was called for an offensive foul on a pick, and the Americans could sense that it was over.
Gasol, who carried the flag for Spain in the opening ceremony, nearly carried his country to its greatest Olympic basketball glory, but had a big miss inside with Spain down by six about three minutes to go, screaming out loud in frustration as he went back down the court.
"I am disappointed, but on the other side I'm very proud how of the we competed, how we played," Gasol said. "We fought for 40 minutes. I am proud of having another Olympic medal around my neck.
"It's disappointing because I thought we had our chance. We were right there pretty much the entire game. We let them get away in the fourth and we couldn't get back."
It was the 14th gold medal for the Americans, who lost at least five players who might have been on the team when Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Derrick Rose had to pull out with injuries and Blake Griffin was hurt in training camp.
Along the way, they showed they could be vulnerable during their exhibition schedule, falling into early holes against Brazil and Spain, having to hold on against Argentina.
Any concerns once they arrived in London seemed to be wiped away as quickly as the way the Americans play.
They were tested only once, beating Lithuania 99-94, and the statistics revealed a tournament that was more varsity against junior varsity than best in the world against each other. The Americans came in leading the tournament in eight statistical categories, with laughably lopsided advantages in points off turnovers (198-77) and fast-break points (175-55).
James didn't seem too concerned Sunday, laughing his way through warmups, even when he badly botched a dunk.
He and the Americans would soon realize this one wasn't going to be all fun and games.
They used an 18-4 run to wipe out their early five-point deficit and made seven 3-pointers in the first quarter, yet led by only eight points. Spain then opened the second period with a 12-2 burst, taking a 39-37 lead on a 3-pointer by Sergio Rodriguez.
Spain, long considered a finesse team, came to fight in this one, Rodriguez delivering a blow to Tyson Chandler's ribs while setting a pick that led to technical fouls on both players.
Both teams grew frustrated with the officiating — Spain in particular when Marc Gasol was called for his fourth foul while going for a rebound with 5:29 remaining in the first half. The Spanish scored their final seven points on free throws, cutting the U.S. lead to 59-58.
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