U.S. men defeat Spain, advance to gold medal game

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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.

WATCH: USA beats Spain, advances to gold medal game

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.

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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