U.S. men outlast Spain to return to gold medal game
For the fourth Olympics in a row, the United States put an end to Spain’s gold medal hopes. With an 82-76 win, the U.S. sent Spain to the bronze medal game and secured an opportunity to play for its third straight gold medal.
Without a big performance from any of their stars, DeAndre Jordan led the United States to a stout defensive performance that proved to be the difference in the game.
Jordan was a monster around the rim, routinely deterring Spain from drives to the basket and when they dared to make a foray to the basket, he often altered or blocked their attempts. On offense, Jordan patrolled the paint catching and finishing lobs at the rim or corralling offensive rebounds. He finished with nine points, 16 rebounds, two assists and four blocks.
Even with Jordan imposing his will around the rim, Pau Gasol proved to be Spain’s best player for the fourth straight Olympic Games. Gasol scored a game-high 23 points, including two from three-point range – the only spot on the floor Jordan seemed unable to guard.
Klay Thompson emerged as the offensive leader for the United States. He tallied 22 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks. Thompson helped to get Jordan going on the offensive end. As the defense collapsed on Thompson, he continually fed the big man with lobs that Jordan finished or was fouled on.
Kevin Durant again led the United States out of the gate. He scored five of their first seven points to help the Americans set the tone early. Durant, the leading scorer for the U.S. throughout the tournament, had 14 points and eight rebounds.
USA outrebounded Spain on both ends of the court, but it was especially noticeable on offense, where they scored 25 points on second-chance opportunities compared to 18 for Spain.
The United States has shown a renewed commitment on the defensive end over the last two games. A large part of that can be attributed to Jordan’s insertion into the starting lineup, sending DeMarcus Cousins to the bench. Jordan is known as a defensive-minded energy guy and has shown as much in the last two games.
As the U.S. stretched the lead to double digits multiple times in the match, Spain always battled back and refused to allow the game to get out of reach. They received a big contribution from Sergio Rodriguez who had 11 points and five assists in the losing effort.
The U.S. now awaits the winner of Australia and Serbia to see who they will face in the gold medal game.