LONDON — That gold medal rematch of the 1972 Olympic final that folks have been buzzing about around here for two weeks is not going to happen.
There still could be a rematch Sunday. It just won’t include Russia. David Blatt‘s team held a 13-point lead over Spain but couldn’t hold off Pau Gasol, Jose Calderon, Rudy Fernandez, Marc Gasol and the rest of a seasoned Spanish team that rallied for a 67-59 win in the first semifinal of the day.
The U.S. Men’s Senior National Team squares off with Argentina in the second semifinal (4 p.m. ET, NBC). If the U.S. wins we’ll get that rematch, but of the 2008 gold medal game in Beijing, won by the U.S.
Pau Gasol led Spain with 16 points and 12 rebounds in the win over Russia, capping a crazy day in which he found out the Dwight Howard trade was finalized during warm ups from TNT’s Craig Sager.
“Craig Sager came to me before the game, chasing me, telling me it was official, and telling me he wanted to get some thoughts while I’m stretching before the Olympic semifinal,” a smiling Gasol said from the podium afterwards. “I told him, ‘look, I’m trying to be focused here.’ And he said, ‘I wouldn’t do this to you if it wasn’t official,’ so I had to give him a little something to he would go away and I could stretch.”
Gasol and his Spanish teammates can stretch out tonight and watch the U.S. Argentina to see who they’ll have to fight with for that gold medal Sunday.
We’ll be here, too, chronicling the action play-by-nearly-every-play. Get your predictions in now …
— FOURTH QUARTER —
109-83 U.S. The rematch with Spain is on!
33.7: D. Will’s 3 for the 109-80 lead is just more misery for Argentina. This thing was done a while ago.
3:38: Westbrook just went to the floor, got up limping and limped all the way to the locker room. That might be the last bit of real drama we see here.
3:54: Chandler catches the oop from CP3. Did I mention that this game was over about five minutes ago?
4:28: Only to have Durant sink another 3. 96-72.
4:43: Argentina’s Facundo Campazzo, you remember him, scores ona traditional 3-point play to trim the lead. 93-72.
6:10: And Coach K. had to put some subs in to give his second unit a break so he sends LeBron, Chandler, Durant and CP3 in to join Melo. not suer what else you’re supposed to do if you are Argentina. Like Manu said the other night, “when they are hitting shots like that. You shake their hands and go to the locker room.”
6:34: Melo just completed another ridiculous 9-0 run, all three of his shots on jaw-dropping 3s. The first from the corner. The second from the top of the key on the break and the third a dang-near halfcourt jammy for a 93-64 lead that is sending people to the exits (might need a bathroom break or more popcorn for this show).
8:54: Melo on the catch and shoot 3. Follows a Westbrook 3 a minute ago. 82-57. This has blowout city written all over it. Argentina barking at the officials. The U.S. has turned the defense up, too. Blame LeBron for all of this. He started it.
9:39: D. Will goes after the inbounds pass and they call a foul. Coach K. jumps off the bench to tell him to relax and then turns to the bench to remind everyone else to relax.
9:43: Love with a layup. 76-56.
I cannot emphasize enough just how ridiculously good LeBron is at just about everything you would want a basketball player to do. He’s not a great shooter, obviously, but everything else … he’s unreal in how many different ways he can impact a game.
— THIRD QUARTER —
30.1: Melo with the step back corner jumper. Just about curtains on this one if Argentina doesn’t have one more monster run in them. 74-57.
1:27: LeBron taps in a Durant miss on a 3 for a 72-53 lead. Argentina is on the ropes right now. Punches are coming fast and furious.
2:03: Durant with another 3. 70-53.
2:37: Durant is hopping up and down in the corner for a pass. Gets it. Splash. 67-53.
3:13: Nocioni with a layup. Love could have taken a hard foul and didn’t. 64-53.
3:46: LeBron drives for the monster smash and foul. He owns Argentina. 64-51.
4:23: Thankfully, LeBron ends the foolishness with a layup at the rim on a nice feed from Melo. 61-51.
4:54: The U.S. refuses to be deterred by missed 3-pointers. They miss three straight on the same possession and if Melo hadn’t fumbled that last offensive rebound out of bounds, they’d have taken another one. 59-51.
5:25: Manu with the layup on the inbounds play. 59-51
6:01: Nocioni for 3. Melo keeps leaving him. 59-49.
6:28: Ruh-roh. Argentina wants to turn it up and the U.S. responds with a LeBron-led fast break. Melo misses the 3 from the corner but LeBron grabs the rebound, gives it back to Melo who finds Durant for the wing 3. Splash. 59-46 and Argentina with a quick timeout.
6:48: CP3 with the floater. 56-46
7:09: After missing badly on his last 3, Durant strokes one from the win for a 54-46 lead.
7:51: Ginobili converts a traditional 3-point play for a 51-46 U.S. lead.
8:25: A U.S. journalist who will not be named just leaned over and said that Nocioni is lulling the U.S. into his rough and tumble routine while Ginobiili is busy going after them.
9:06: Chandler puts back a rare LeBron layup miss. 51-43.
9:36: Manu sinks his 3 after Kobe’s to open the quarter falls short. 47-43.
— SECOND QUARTER —
0.0: Manu with an equalizer 3 at the buzzer right in front of the U.S. bench, just a little reminder that “we wain’t going nowhere.” 47-40.
9.1: Love scores on the sick no-look pas from LeBron. 47-37.
31.2: Scola scores on a layup produced by some wicked ball movement. ARG is hanging around again. 45-37.
1:15: LeBron barking at the ref, wants to know those wrap up fouls to slow down the U.S. fast break aren’t ever called intentional. “Why not? Why not?” he yells at the official loud enough for anyone in the city to hear. Valid point, too. Teams just take a foul on CP3 to slow the break whenever they can.
2:08: Melo with the pump fake on the baseline and gets the easy dunk. 45-35.
3:05: Leonardo for 3. 43-35.
3:25: LeBron with a sick tap pass in the air to Durant for a layup. 43-32.
3:40: Delfino with another 3 to keep ARG in this thing.
4:04: Carmelo Anthony gets on the board with a baseline jumper. 41-29.
4:39: Kobe with the jumper after a nice shot fake on Scola. 39-29.
5:00: Delfino at the line after Kobe grabbed his arm on a drive to the basket. 37-29. Delfino remains one of the most perplexing international players in the game. He looks great at times and then other times you forget he’s on the floor. Well, I guess he does the same things in the league. But here, he just seems so much more comfortable with his role on the national team (which makes sense since these guys have been playing together since they were teenagers).
5:11: LeBron plows over poor Leonardo Gutierrez (who is bigger than LeBron but had no chance) for the layup and foul. 37-27.
5:42: LeBron on a third straight assist from CP3. 34-27.
6:30: LeBron on the cut and layup from CP3. 32-27.
6:51: Delfino from 3 again. 30-27.
7:11: Love with the dunk on the sweet drop off pass from CP3.
7:27: Delfino from 3.
7:37: LeBron with the layup.
8:06: Love tips in his own miss. 26-21. The U.S. isn’t playing with a ton of extra enerrgy, though.
8:47: Scola catches the U.S. napping again and scores on a layup, not sure if they are playing man or zone. 24-21.
That early lead didn’t hold. The U.S. got complacent a few times on defense and paid for it. 24-19 to star the quarter.
— FIRST QUARTER —
17.1: Gutierrez with a layup. 24-19.
41: Deron Williams frmo 3. 24-17.
1:14: Russell Westbrook with the freaky driving layup. 21-17.
1:27: JP Gutierrez does what Love can and sinks two free throsws. 18-17.
1:51: Andres Nocioni drains a basline jumper to get us back tight. 18-15.
2:27: LeBron stalks a fast break play and pins Delfino’s layup attempt on the glass. Nasty.
3:29: Scola with a layup. 18-13. Tightening up on the ARG side.
4;01: Manu from deep. 18-11.
4:31: Carlos Delfino from the corner. 18-8.
5:39: Kobe answers with another 3. He’s got 11 of the U.S.’s 18(-6) points.
5:47: Manu with a layup.
6:09: Durant with the steal and dunk. 15-4 just like that. Timeout ARG.
6:32: Kobe for another 3. Here we go. 13-4.
6:55: LeBron James gets on the board with a jumper. 10-4.
7:07: Kobe reinforces that previous point by outrunning Scola
7:14: Kevin Durant with a nasty swat on Scola. The U.S. is locked and loaded early here.
7:55: Chris Paul for 3. 8-4 U.S.
8:18: Chandler picks up his second foul already. Get ready for some Kevin Love.
8:43: Kobe goes baseline for the reverse, two-handed jam. 5-4.
9:03: Scola with a runner over Tyson Chandler. 4-3 ARG.
9:23: Kobe Bryant for 3, picking up where he left off in the quarterfinals.
9:51: Luis Scola opens the scoring with a jumper from the L. 2-0, ARG.
U.S. bench and crowd are fired up. So is the other side. This is one is gonna be crazy. I can feel it.
— PREGAME —
Perhaps the most interesting sight of before the game was Blatt, an American Israeli, belting out the words to the Star Spangled Banner with his coaching shirt with Russia plastered across the chest on it in the stands behind the U.S. basket.