Redeem Team wins gold

The U.S. men’s basketball team accomplished its goal of winning a gold medal by defeating a feisty Spanish team, 118-107. I give credit to NBC for airing the game live even though it was on at 2:30 AM on the East Coast. It’s too bad that they didn’t plan to air it again later in the morning, because it was a great game.

With Kobe Bryant and LeBron James in foul trouble throughout the first half, the game was tight but Dwyane Wade came off the bench to score 21 points in the first two quarters to lead the Americans to a 69-61 halftime lead. Spain continued to fight back throughout the second half, eventually cutting the lead to two on a Rudy Fernandez long ball with 8:13 to play. It was gut-check time for the U.S.; they had allowed Spain to get back into the game with a combination of sketchy shot selection and poor defense and once again it looked like the Americans would be plagued by fractured play.

But down the stretch it was Kobe who took control, scoring eight points and dishing out a couple of assists over the next five minutes to build the lead to nine. Spain cut it to four with 2:25 to play, but Wade hit a clutch three to push the lead back to seven. Carlos Jiminez missed a wide-open three (after just knocking one down) that would have cut the lead to three with 1:33 to play, but Bryant hit a tough shot in the lane on the Americans’ next possession to effectively put the game out of reach.

Defense had been Team USA’s calling card throughout the Olympics, but save for a couple of key stops, they just didn’t have it tonight. Luckily, they were able to knock down their three-pointers (13/28, 46%), which is something that has hurt the U.S. in the past. Wade led all scorers with 27 points and had four steals. Bryant chipped in with 20, including those eight crucial points in the fourth quarter. LeBron James played a solid all-around game, posting 14 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Spain was led by Pau Gasol (22 points), Fernandez (21) and Juan Carlos Navarro (18). They were playing without Raptors’ point guard Jose Calderon, who was sidelined with a groin injury. (Fernandez joins the Portland Trailblazers next season and he looks like a star in the making. He’s just 23, stands 6’6″, and has a great jumper. He also handles the ball well and attacks the rim. He is starter-quality, but may come off the bench behind Jerryd Bayless and Brandon Roy.)

Hats off to Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski for putting together a team capable of winning the gold. For the most part, they set their egos aside and played together, which is necessary these days to have success at the Olympic level. Every player knew and played his role.

Now where does the program go from here? It will be interesting to see if USA Basketball pushes forward with the same philosophy or, with this success, if they get lulled into a false sense of security. I’m betting on the former, but you never know.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Related Posts