The U.S. men’s basketball team met Spain for the third consecutive Olympics Friday afternoon, albeit in the semifinals as opposed to the gold medal game where those other two meetings occurred. But the result was the same, with the Americans winning 82-76 to advance to Sunday’s gold medal game. Next up for Mike Krzyzewski’s team will be either Australia or Serbia, two teams that gave them fits in pool play.
Klay Thompson, who’s had some trouble establishing a consistent rhythm offensively in Rio, shot the ball well (17 first-half points) and finished with a team-high 22 points on 8-for-16 shooting from the field. He was one of three double-digit scorers for the U.S., with Kevin Durant adding 14 points and Kyrie Irving 13, and DeAndre Jordan was the anchor defensively with 16 rebounds and four blocks to go along with nine points.
Given the presence of Pau Gasol, the U.S. big men were of greater importance defensively than they’ve been through much of the Olympics. And with DeMarcus Cousins struggling with foul trouble during his limited time on the court, Jordan stepped forward in a big way. As was the case against Argentina Jordan was the rim protector the U.S. needed, and having that kind of defender on the back line gives the perimeter defenders more incentive to buckle down as well.
And if Sunday’s opponent is Australia, with their deep front line led by Andrew Bogut and guards adept at getting to the basket (especially Patty Mills), the Americans will need more of the same from the Los Angeles Clippers center.
It was tough for either team to establish much of a rhythm in the first half, with the combination of physical play and a tight whistle resulting in early foul trouble and a total of five technical fouls for the two teams. However in the second half the U.S. was better offensively, leading by as much as 13 points. Spain wouldn’t allow them to run away with the game, but the margin was big enough to ensure that they would be playing for their third consecutive Olympic gold medal.
Gasol led the Spaniards with 23 points and Sergio Rodriguez added 11.