In the first Men’s basketball semifinal of the Rio Olympics, the top two teams faced off. Team USA took on Spain for the right to advance to the gold medal game.
Team USA and Spain have a history of playing big games against each other, but Friday’s semi final is earlier than they have met in the past.
USA Basketball took on Spain in each of the past two Gold Medal games, but only one of them would advance to Rio’s gold medal game.
DeAndre Jordan, who started in place of DeMarcus Cousins for the second straight game, kicked off the scoring for Team USA. Kevin Durant also got on the board early, as he elevated over Rudy Fernandez and knocked down a three. Durant was also the beneficiary of a rare international continuation call, but missed the free throw. By scoring seven points in the first quarter, Durant passed both LeBron James and David Robinson to become Team USA’s second all-time leading scorer. Durant trails only his USA teammate, Carmelo Anthony.
8 Points, 9 Seconds
Ricky Rubio picked up two early fouls in the first three-and-a-half minutes, and had to head to the bench. Rubio had been playing stout defense on Kyrie Irving in the opening minutes. With Rubio out, Team USA smartly fed Irving, who immediately hit a jumper.
The scoring slowed a bit as both teams slowed their pace. At one point, Kevin Durant was visibly upset on the floor as Team USA stood around on offense. One of Team USA’s downfalls throughout the Rio Olympics has been a lack of ball movement on offense.
With Jimmy Butler and Paul George in the game late in the first quarter, Team USA excelled defensively. The United States held Spain to just 17 first-quarter points, as they took a 26-17 lead into the second quarter.
Carmelo Anthony struggled mightily from the free-throw line early. 50 seconds into the second quarter, Spain was assessed a technical foul. Anthony stepped to the line to take the subsequent free throws, and missed both. Anthony was one of a few players, including Kyrie Irving, who couldn’t find a rhythm through the first fifteen minutes of the game.
After a quiet performance against Argentina, Klay Thompson hit three of his first six shots. But Team USA started to unravel toward the end of the first half. With 3:40 left, Spain cut the USA lead to four. Kevin Durant was then hit with a technical foul, which was the second for Team USA on Friday. The technical free throw brought Spain within three.
The next three minutes would be crucial. Klay Thompson was able to pad the USA lead up to six, but Spain had a chance to close the gap to end the half. USA and Spain traded threes in the final two minutes. Spain received a delay of game technical, and Klay Thompson made the free throw to put Team USA up by five. After another Spain bucket, Thompson hit a three with the quarter winding down. Team USA took a 45-39 lead into the half. Thompson led all scorers with 17 points in the first half.
Towards the beginning of the third quarter, Team USA looked to Carmelo Anthony in an effort to get him going. Anthony continued to struggle, as he just couldn’t get his jumper to fall. However, he did make a nice hustle play when Ricky Rubio had a fast break opportunity. Anthony hustled back and rejected Rubio’s layup, which drew a loud cheer from the crowd.
With 3:44 left in the third quarter, DeAndre Jordan flew through the air for a massive put-back dunk after Klay Thompson missed a three. Jordan timed it perfectly, and suddenly Team USA had some momentum.
DeAndre Jordan continued his solid performance with a big block on Sergio Llull to start the fourth quarter. Team USA went with their defensive unit to start the quarter, and the Americans pushed their lead to a game-high 13.
When Spain cut the lead down to 10, Klay Thompson immediately called for the ball and hit a three on the next possession to push the lead back to 13. With four minutes remaining, Team USA and Spain traded buckets, which didn’t allow Spain to make any progress on the score board. The United States led by 9 with three minutes to go.
Team USA was closing in on a victory, and Coach K went with his small ball lineup to close it out. Kevin Durant hit a two-pointer to put the USA up by 11. An offensive foul called on Sergio Llull was deflating for Spain. In the final minute-and-a-half, Paul George got an easy dunk, but it was answered by a Spain three. Nikola Mirotic made a smart play by drawing a foul while shooting a three for Spain. He made two of the three free throws, but Spain had run out of time.
Spain was down by 8 with just 17 seconds remaining. They added two more points, but Team USA went on to win 82-76.
Team USA will now have a chance to win their third straight gold medal. The United States previously took the gold in 2008 and 2012.
Team USA will face the winner of Australia vs Serbia in the gold medal game. The second semifinal is Friday, and the gold medal game is Sunday.