Though a gold-medal rematch was expected before the Olympics, the Spanish struggled in London, losing twice in the preliminary round and saying that just getting to the gold medal game was an accomplishment given some injuries they faced. The Americans waved off Spain's claims of being tired and hurt, and, sure enough, the Spanish team they expected showed up in the final, believing they could pull it off.
"Of course we did. We wouldn't be playing if we didn't think we had a chance," Marc Gasol said. "Give them a lot of credit. They made a lot of shots — tough shots. They have so many options, great players and they made shots."
Size was always the Americans' biggest obstacle, and the 7-foot-1 Pau Gasol dominated them to start the second half, scoring Spain's first 13 points to give them a 71-70 lead at the midpoint of the third quarter. Serge Ibaka at 6-10 also hurt the U.S. inside, and the Americans led only 83-82 heading into the fourth.
Though this was expected to be the final international game for Krzyzewski and Bryant, the U.S. will apparently still be able to bring its best to the next Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. Though the NBA has said it might prefer an under-23 age limit for the Olympics, FIBA's secretary general said Saturday he doesn't see any changes being proposed in time for 2016.
James isn't sure if he will return after he, Bryant, Anthony, Chris Paul and Deron Williams joined a list of 13 Americans who have won multiple gold medals.
Paul's basket while drawing a foul near the end had Krzyzewski jumping for joy in his final minutes as U.S. national team coach. He said even before joining Hank Iba as the only coaches to lead the U.S. to consecutive golds that this would be his last game — though USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo promised to do his best sales job to bring the respected coach back.
He led a powerful performance in Britain, where there is such little history and awareness of basketball that some basic rules were explained during pregame announcements.
Now the British have seen the game at its highest level.
"We came through from the beginning of July and worked hard for one goal and I'm glad I accomplished it," Durant said.
Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney
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