USA’s NBA superstars down Spain to move into Olympic final, Serbia rout Australia in other semi
The United States’ collection of NBA stars, unbeaten for a decade, will face Serbia in Sunday’s Rio Olympics gold medal game after both teams came through the semi-finals
The United States’ collection of NBA stars, unbeaten for a decade, will face Serbia in Sunday’s Rio Olympics gold medal game after both teams won semi-finals Friday.
The Americans downed Spain 82-76 for their 24th consecutive Olympic victory in a rematch of the past two Olympic finals while Serbia routed Australia 87-61 to claim its first Olympic men’s hoops medal.
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The US NBA squad stretched its 10-year overall win streak to 75 games since a 2006 World Championships semi-final loss to Greece, earning a chance at a third gold in a row and sixth in seven tries with NBA talent.
“It means a lot to be in the final game, to win the gold,” US guard Kevin Durant said.
“We like our chances, so we’ve got to come out and play with a lot of intensity, a lot of passion and energy and we’ll be fine.”
American NBA stars are 2-0 against Serbia, beating them 129-92 in the 2014 Basketball World Cup final to earn a berth in Rio but by only 94-91 in a group match last week, the smallest margin of the US Olympic win streak.
“It gives us hope,” Serbian centre Miroslav Raduljica said of the lopsided victory.
“We showed in our last game that they are not unbeatable. I think we know how to play against them and we’re going to do that. We’re going to show something.”
Klay Thompson scored 22 points and Durant added 14 for the US team while Kyrie Irving contributed 13 and DeAndre Jordan scored nine points, grabbed 16 rebounds and blocked four shots as well as disrupting numerous others.
“He played a great game,” US coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
“We wouldn’t be playing for the gold medal if DeAndre didn’t play that well.”
A Spanish side boasting seven NBA standouts and three former NBA players kept the US elite to their lowest-scoring Olympic game since 2004 and their thinnest margin in a knockout game over their unbeaten decade.
“We held them to 82 points. That was pretty good. I’m not sure many teams can do that,” said Spanish centre Pau Gasol, who scored a game-high 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
Gasol, a two-time NBA champion, said Spain missed its best chance to upset the USA.
“I don’t think they are playing as well as other times they have played,” Gasol said.
“But they’re still a very talented team individually.
“If we would have been a little sharper with our shots, moved the ball a little better, boxed out a little more – it’s a two or three-possession game. In the end we could be talking about a whole different story.”
Jordan jammed home an alley-oop dunk to end the third quarter, giving the Americans a 66-57 lead that they quickly stretched to their largest of the game at 72-57.
Spain, which never led, closed with a 19-10 run but it was too little and too late.
“Our hearts are bleeding. We are winners. It’s painful. But our brains must look forward and be proud of the effort we made,” Spain coach Sergio Scariolo said.
“It’s like if a team has 50 times your budget and you are able to compete.”
In the second semi-final, Milos Teodosic scored 22 points and Stefan Markovic added 14 to spark a Serbian rout.
Serbia opened with an 8-0 run, stretched the lead to 16-5 by the end of the first quarter and it 24-10 much before the Aussies knew what hit them.
By half-time the Serbs led 35-14 and the Boomers could not recover in the second half.
“Holding them to 14 points in the first half, this is something amazing we did,” Teodosic said.
Australia made only 6-of-29 shots from the floor in the first half, including just 2-of-15 in the first quarter.