After narrowly defeating Serbia the last time they met, Team USA Basketball looked for one more victory on Sunday, to earn a gold medal.
The last time the Americans and the Serbs met in Rio, the two teams battled to the final buzzer. Team USA was nearly pushed to the brink of defeat, but managed to escape with a three point victory.
Sunday was the rematch, with a gold medal on the line. This time around, Team USA put up their best overall performance of the Olympics, and it paid off with Gold.
USA and Serbia got off to an evenly matched start, as the game was tied at 11 midway through the first quarter. Coach K went to a majority of his second unit early, as Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, Jimmy Butler, and Kyle Lowry entered the game.
Both teams struggled offensively in the first quarter. For the first nine-plus minutes of the game, Serbia led. Team USA took a 16-14 lead in the final minute, which was their first lead of the game. Team USA not only struggled from the field, but from the free throw line as well. A Kevin Durant three-pointer put Team USA up 19-15 to end the first quarter. However, Team USA shot just 35 percent from the field in the opening quarter.
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Team USA went with part of their second unit to start the second quarter. Kevin Durant hit another three at the 7:50 mark of the second quarter to give the United States an 11-point lead. On the very next possession, Durant hit another three, which was his third of the game. Team USA took a 13-point lead as Durant began to heat up.
The Serbs endured a dry spell on offense in the second quarter. Team USA at one point went on a 21 to 6 run. Durant’s fourth three of the game put Team USA up by 16. The Serbs simply were not scoring enough in the second quarter to keep pace with Team USA. With three minutes left in the half, Team USA led by 20. Serbia had multiple open shots throughout the quarter, but for the most part was not able to convert.
With 30 seconds remaining in the half, Team USA displayed perhaps their best exhibition of ball movement throughout the entire Olympics. Six passes in the possession kept Serbia off balance and the end result was a wide open three for Kevin Durant. At the end of the half, Team USA led 52-29. Durant led all scorers in the first half with 24.
With one half complete, the United States was in control. Team USA was twenty minutes away from Gold.
Team USA had built a comfortable lead into the third quarter. The Americans continued to move the ball and the game was slipping away from Serbia. A Klay Thompson three-pointer gave Team USA a 29 point lead. Team USA continued to pull away on offense, as their lead proved to be insurmountable even with 13 minutes left in the game.
At the end of the third quarter, Team USA led Serbia 79-43.
Team USA continued to stay motivated into the fourth quarter even with the game well in control. The Americans still hustled and fought for rebounds despite leading by over 40 at one point.
For a team that put up 91 points in their last meeting against the United States, Serbia looked overmatched in the gold medal game. The Serbs looked out of sync offensively all game, and Team USA looked motivated to put an exclamation point on their Olympic run. Team USA would go on to win Gold in convincing fashion, knocking off Serbia 96-66.
The United States got off to a fast enough start, to the point where Serbia could not recover. For the Serbs, it was quite an accomplishment to make it to the gold medal game. But Team USA came ready to play, and despite looking a bit shaky at times throughout the tournament, Team USA will bring home Gold.
This marks Team USA’s third straight gold medal. Team USA has also won five of the last six gold medals. For Team USA, Coach K will step away from the team as a winner. San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is set to take over as head coach for the 2020 Olympics.