USA Men Fight Off Spain To Claim 118-107 Win And Olympic Gold Medal
Riding 27 points from Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat) and 20 points from Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers), the 2008 U.S. Men's Olympic Team (8-0) dethroned reigning World Champion Spain (6-2) in a fight-to-the-finish 118-107 victory that earned the USA the Olympic gold medal Sunday afternoon at Wukesong Arena in Beijing, China. The gold was the USA's 13th all-time in Olympic competition and its first gold medal finish in a major international competition since claiming gold in the 2000 Olympics.
Answering every Spanish comeback attempt in the second and third periods, the USA watched its nine-point lead shrink to as little as two in the fourth period before 13 points from Bryant and Wade's fourth 3-pointer of the game propelled the USA past Spain and to its eighth consecutive double-digit win in as many games, including its second over Spain.
In Sunday's bronze medal game, Argentina (6-2) topped Lithuania (5-3) 87-75 to collect the third-place medal.
'I'm proud of our guys. We played with great character in one of the great games in international basketball history, I think,' said USA and Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski. 'Because if we didn't have great character, we would not have been able to beat another team that had great character. Spain was fabulous. Everything we did, we tried to stop them, and we couldn't stop them completely. It was a great basketball game where everybody involved played at the highest level, and I think it brought out the best in us. We're thoroughly thankful for the opportunity to represent our country. (We're) ecstatic about winning the gold medal.'
Both teams were hot from the field, but the USA bettered Spain's 51.4 percent (38-74 FGs) shooting with a 60.0 percent performance (39-65 FGs) of its own, and led by Wade's 4-of-7 shooting from deep, the USA shot 13-of-28 from 3-point to set a U.S. Olympic record for the most 3-pointers made.
'I felt that I haven't had a good game in the last two games, so I really made it a point to come out, be very aggressive from the start,' said Wade, who tallied 21 of his 27 points in the first half. 'I got into a rhythm early and it just kept going.'
LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers) added 14 points and six rebounds; Chris Paul (New Orleans Hornets) tallied 13 points and five assists and shot 9-of-10 from the free throw line; and Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets) also added 13 points to round out the USA's double-digit scorers. Bryant also dished six assists.
'Every possession counted tonight for all 40 minutes, every possession counted, James stated. 'You couldn't take one possession off, one second off. If it wasn't for the determination and the will power we have in each other, we wouldn't have pulled through and got this win. Much respect to Spain, but U.S. is back on top again.'
The lead changed six times to start the game before two bonus free-throws for Spain put it ahead 22-17. Paul converted on a 3-point play to kick off a 14-3 run that gave the USA a 31-25 advantage when Chris Bosh (Toronto Raptors), who grabbed seven rebounds and shot 6-of-6 from the free throw line, cleaned up a missed free throw by Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic) with 1:31 on the clock. The teams traded scores from there, and Wade drained a 3-pointer 10 seconds before the first break to stretch the U.S. lead to 38-31 after one.
Four different U.S. scorers combined for five made 3-pointers in the second period, including two from Wade, to help the USA counter 13 points from Spain's Rudy Fernandez, and the U.S. held a 69-61 lead at halftime.
Spain outscored the U.S. 10-6 to start the third period, and the USA called a time out at with 6:04 on the clock and just a four point lead, 75-71.
Out of the break, Anthony blocked a shot, Bosh collected the rebound and fired the ball ahead to Anthony on a fast break, and the USA capped the third quarter with a 16-11 run and the score was 91-82 headed into the final 10 minutes.
Spain opened the final stanza with a 7-0 run that forced another USA timeout just 1:47 into the quarter with the U.S. up by just two points, 91-89. Bryant scored two points out of the timeout, Deron Williams (Utah Jazz) sank a 3-pointer and Howard dunked a Bryant assist to cushion the USA advantage to 98-89 with 6:48 left.
As was the case for the entire 40 minutes, Spain refused to quit and two points from Gasol with 3:32 remaining pulled Spain within five points, 104-99. Bryant answered once again, this time drilling a 3-pointer while drawing Fernandez's fifth and final foul. Bryant sank the free throw for a four-point play that restored the U.S. advantage to
Bryant's four-point punch didn't knock Spain out, however, as Carlos Jimenez' 3-pointer at 2:25 cut the U.S. lead to 108-104.
It was Wade who dealt the final blow against Spain with his fourth 3-pointer of the game at 2:04 that put the USA back up by seven, 111-104.
'Not only did we win this gold medal, but it was probably one of the best Olympic games ever,' said Tayshaun Prince (Detroit Pistons). 'I kept thinking I might have been part of one of the best Olympic basketball games for all time.
Both teams never gave up; both teams shot a high percentage. A different player on each team always came down the court and made a great play.'
Both teams converted its free throw opportunities into points. Spain shot 23-of-28 (.821) from the line, while the USA was 27-of-37 (.730) from the charity stripe.
Jason Kidd (Dallas Mavericks) is the only two-time Olympic gold medalist on the 2008 team and becomes just the 13th U.S. player in history to collect two gold medals; while Kidd, Anthony, Carlos Boozer (Utah Jazz), James and Wade now belong to a small group of just 18 two-time U.S. Olympic basketball team members.
'What you saw today was a team,' Bryant added. 'Everybody wants to talk about NBA players being selfish, being arrogant, being individuals. What you saw today was a team bonding together, facing adversity and coming of here with a big win.'
The U.S. men have medaled in every Olympics they have played in, including 13 gold medals, 1 silver and two bronze, while compiling a 122-5 win-loss record for a 96.0 winning percentage. U.S. Olympic teams featuring NBA players are 35-3 in the Olympics, and the USA has won four of five Olympic titles (1992, 1996, 2000 and 2008).
Serving as 2008 USA Basketball Men's Senior National Team assistant coaches are Syracuse University and Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, New York Knicks head mentor Mike D'Antoni and Portland Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan.