LONDON — UPDATE 12:17 p.m. Medal ceremony going on right now. U.S. clad in smooth black warm ups to snag their gold medals. They won 107-100 to claim their second straight Olympic gold over Spain.
To repeat or not to repeat: that is the question facing the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team today, just minutes away from their gold medal rematch with Spain in the Olympic finals.
(Sorry, but a visit to London without at least one Billy Shakespeare reference would have been a travesty. We had to go there.)
They did this four years ago, playing a to-the-wire game in Beijing that the U.S. pulled out late for a 118-107 victory that both sides have had four long years to think about.
You know Spain’s big man brother duo of Pau and Marc Gasol have been thinking about it and hearing about it since then, especially Pau (something tells me Kobe Bryant has brought it up a time or two over the years).
Spain actually had one distinct advantage over the U.S. four years ago, in that the core group of their roster had been playing together for years, “since they were 12 or 13,” according to point guard Jose Calderon.
The U.S. has closed that gap. USA Basketball’s program is as solid as it’s been in years and arguably ever, courtesy of the commitment of guys like Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant and others.
A second straight gold medal validates everything USA Basketball chairman and managing director Jerry Colangelo and U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski have worked to build since taking over the program after the debacle at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
It would also solidify this group as arguably one of the most impressive collections of U.S. (NBA) stars to compete in Olympic competition … that’s as close as we get to the whole This Team vs. The Original Dream Team debate.
That said, they have 40 minutes and a tough Spain team to get through before they can worry about anything else. We’ll be here for every minute of the action. Get your predictions in now …
— FOURTH QUARTER —
0.0: U.S. wins 107-100. A little Bruce (Born In the USA) booming in the building as the celebration starts. Gold for the U.S. for the second straight Olympics.
12.1: Harden makes the second of two FTs again. 107-100.
13.5: M. Gasol with a junk time layup. 106-100. Am I the only person who thought it was a little soon to pull your big dogs as early as Coach K. did?
18.5: Harden makes the second of two FTs. 106-98.
19.8: M. Gasol layup and foul. 105-98.
37.6: CP3 with one of two FTs. 105-95.
41.1: M. Gasol with a layup. 104-95.
50.7: CP3 with the backbreaker driving layup past Pau at the shot clock buzzer. 104-93.
1:52: Offensive foul on Pau and Lull, for getting CP3 on the Malachi Crunch! That hurt Spain.
1:59: LeBron with a 3 in M. Gasol’s face. 102-93.
2:21: M. Gasol with a dunk. 99-93.
2:46: LeBron with the Statue of Liberty dunk when Spain’s zone rotation breaks down. 99-91.
3:20: Two straight U.S. turnovers got Coach K. out of his seat to call a timeout. LeBron replaces Melo for crunch time here. CP3, Kobe, Love and Durant on the floor, too.
3:35: Fernandez gets the tip in hustling. 97-91.
4:13: Navarro with the quick change jumper. 97-89.
4:22: So much for Spain’s big man advantage. Kobe gets a rebound over Pau and goes back up and banks in a layup over him. 97-87.
5:20: P. Gasol makes the first of two free throws. 95-87.
6:00: Kobe fouled by Fernandez on a 3-point attempt. Sinks the last two. 95-86.
6:22: Durant has no conscience with that international 3-point line staring him in the face. Takes and makes this time. 93-86.
6:49: M. Gasol with the jumper. Hey big fella, we missed you. 90-86.
7:37: Someone remind Spanish coach Sergio Scariolo that Marc Gasol didn’t foul out in the first half!
8:24: Fernandez stops another U.S. break with a shoulder shiver to Cp3. “I’m good. I’m good.” Paul tells the official as players from both sides get a little heated.
8:43: CP3 on the pause move and layup. 90-84.
9:11: CP3 for 3. 88-84.
9:28: Lull with a driving layup. 85-84.
9:48: LeBron scores on a sweet spin move in the lane after a feed from Kobe. 85-82.
— THIRD QUARTER —
0.0: Spain is all up in this one right now, answering the U.S. blow for blow. No Marc Gasol at all in the third. And Ibaka did the deed. Stepped up and filled the void, as Coach K like to say, “magnificently.” Pau Gasol was a force. Scoring at will and running the floor and playing the way Lakers fans hope he will all season.
27.8: Ibaka is fouled by Iguodala on a nice drop off at the rim from Rodriguez. Makes both free throws. 83-82.
1:39: Corner 3 from Durant. 83-80.
1:53: Ibaka ties it 80-80
2:18: Gasol cashes in with the dunk.
2:51: Durant with the get back 3.
3:22: Ibaka with the layup. 77-74.
3:34: Kobe FTs, 77-72.
4:01: Durant with a FT line jumper. 75-72.
4:14: At leas the officials have calmed down a little bit.
4:15: LeBron picks up his third as Ibaka hits the floor on a rebound and layup attempt. Misses the first FT, 73-72 U.S.
4:50: Kobe for 3. 73-71.
5:02: Gasol with the nice seal and layup over Love. CP3 fouls him. FT good. 71-70.
5:12: Lebron with the oop from CP3 after a steal. 70-68.
5:35: Kobe baseline jam. 68-68.
5:46: Gasol at the line after being fouled by Love in the paint. Misses the first. 68-66 Spain.
6:11: LeBron with the driving layup over Gasol and Ibaka. 67-66.
6:30: Pau with the baseline layup over Love. 67-64.
7:52: Gasol with the sweet pick and roll with Fernandez for the jam. 65-64.
8:19: Gasol with the lefty scoop and foul on Chandler. 64-63.
8:34: Durant just went up for the wicked jam on Gasol and got fouled. 64-60.
8:56: P. Gasol with the runner. 62-60.
9:13: CP3 for 3. 62-58.
Ibaka for Marc Gasol to start the second half. No choice there.
— HALFTIME —
When the whistles weren’t blowing like crazy, Navarro was busy getting loose. Knocked down four of his six shots from deep in the first half to lead Spain with 19 points. Vintage effort from the captain. Durant led the U.S. with 17 but shot just 4-for-12 from the floor. LeBron (8, 6 rebounds, 3 assists) and Love (9 and 6) helped pace the U.S.
A combined for 33 fouls in first half. They are on pace to finish with more fouls than the 55 they combined for in the gold medal game in Beijing. A despicable officiating performance in that first half. No one came to see whistles blowing all day. These guys are playing for a gold medal. The least the refs could do is actually let them play for it.
— SECOND QUARTER —
3.1: Fernandez just took the flopping to All-Star levels. Gets the unsportsmanlike foul on Andre Iguodala. 59-58 after the two free throws. FIBA should swap refs at halftime. Seriously. This is hard to watch. We all deserve better than this.
43.6: Melo picks up his third blocking out Ibaka. Someone needs to snatch the whistles from this crew at halftime. They’ve sapped the crowd’s energy with all of this nonsense. Ibaka makes ’em both. 59-56.
1:05: Love with another free throws (he actually got fouled.) 59-54.
1:22: Fernandez shooting two more after D. Will picks up his third foul. Refs are in a free fall right now. 58-54. They’ve ruined what might have been an excellent game with non-stop whistles.
1:33: Fernandez with another free throw. 58-52.
1:44: D. Will from 3. 58-51.
2:07: Navarro coast-to-coast layup. 55-51.
2:41: LeBron with a rebound of a Melo miss from 3. 55-49.
3:35: B-R-U-T-A-L … Navarro called for a foul on Westbrook when he never touched him. Westbrook just lost the ball running up the floor. 53-49.
4:03: LeBron with the floater in the lane. 52-49.
4:21: LeBron fouls Fernandez hard. Ouch. Two more free throws. 50-49.
4:39: Westbrook took off for the easy dunk and left Navarro and Spain battles for a rebound and gets the Navarro 3. 50-47.
4:56: Love with two more free throws. 50-44.
5:09: FIBA refs are brutal. I’m just throwing it out there now. B-R-U-T-A-L in every sense of the word. I take back all the bad things I’ve ever said about NBA refs … well, not everything!
5:29: Fourth foul on M. Gasol leaning on Love for a rebound attempt. Wow. That’s brutal for Spain. He’s gonna be in the cooler for the remainder of the half and has no room to do anything in the second half. 48-44.
6:05: Durant with the baseline dropper over M. Gasol, on a nice feed from LeBron, 46-44. Gasol picks up his third foul, too.
6:24: M. Gasol with the layup, 44-43. He tried to draw the foul but didn’t get that whistle.
6:34: LeBron with two free throws. 43-42. Lots of wacky whistles and drama plays going on right now.
6:48: Sergio Lull with the corner 3 for a 42-41 lead. Love got called for an offensive foul on the box out. But we get no replays in here, so it was hard to tell exactly what happened.
7:10: Love tips in a Kobe corner 3 miss for 39-39.
7:17: S.Rod gives Chandler some bows to the ribs on a screen and then puts his finger in his face when Chandler objects. Double fouls. Calm down fellas and play ball.
7:21: S. Rod with the 3 for the lead. 39-37.
7:56: M. Gasol with the rainbow in the lane. 37-36.
8:20: LeBron with the drive and dunk on the inbounds.
8:43: S.Rod at the line for two free throws to close the gap to 35-34.
8:59: P. Gasol with the layup over Love. 35-32.
9:13: Fernandez gets in front of Melo on the baseline and gets run over, drawing Melo’s second fou.
9:17: Westbrook with another turnover. The U.S. has to be careful with their shot selection and turnovers against this team.
9:38: Fernandez with a corner 3 on the break after a U.S. miss. 35-30.
— FIRST QUARTER —
0.0: P. Gasol has a corner 3 lined up at the buzzer and Durant comes out of nowhere and swats it out of bounds. 35-27. Solid first quarter from the U.S. That zone strategy doesn’t work as well against them as it used to. They have too many good shooters and distributors/decision makers for it to affect them the way it did say 10 years ago in Indianapolis.
32.9: Rudy Fernandez catches the oop. 35-27.
54.6: Durant with the corner 3. 35-25.
1:08: P. Gasol with an answer. 33-25.
1:21: Westbrook with a pull up jumper. 33-23.
1:31: Another weird call. D. Will gets nothing but ball on an Ibaka dunk attempt and the whistles gets blown immediately. U.S. bench goes crazy because it happened right in front of them. 31-23.
1:48: D. Will chews up Spain’s zone with a sweet drive and dish to love for the dunk. 30-21.
2:02: Quick whistles on the U.S. all of a sudden. Kevin Love called for a foul battling Ibaka for rebounding position. Neither one of them was going to get the rebound. Ibaka makes one of two. 28-21.
2:31: D. Will from 3. 28-20.
2:39: Navarro is a master at picking up hand check fouls. A true master. I love this cat. 25-20.
3:09: P. Gasol with two free throws after he gets fouled by LeBron on a put back of an Ibaka miss. 25-18.
3:37: Ibaka and Sergio Rodriguez in for Spain. D. Will in for the U.S.
3:50: Melo with the corner 3. 25-16 just like that.
4:16: Melo with a baseline jumper off the glass. 22-16.
4:42: Durant drive and draws Marc Gasol’s second foul. 20-16 after two free throws.
5:15: Melo for 3. 18-14.
5:24: Navarro from the baseline. 15-14. The U.S. goes for every shot fake. Bad habits?
5:44: Kobe with another 3. 15-12.
5:56: Calderon with a Greco Roman horse collar on Durant. Could have started something. But cooler heads prevail. Two free throws from Durant. 12-12.
6:18: Kobe with the answer on the corner 3. 12-10
6:43: Navarro for 3. 12-7. Biggest deficit of the tournament for the U.S. Spanish crowd going crazy.
7:22: Navarro for 3. 9-7.
8:13: Durant rebounds his own miss and drops in a floater over Marc Gasol and is fouled. Misses free throw. 7-6.
8:43: Pau with the nice lefty hook over Chandler. 6-4.
9:07: Durant with his first 3. 5-4.
9:23: Juan Carlos Navarro answers with a deep 3 and a foul from Kobe. 4-3.
9:42: Kobe finds Chandler for the layup in the middle of Spain’s zone. 2-0.
— PREGAME —
This is going to be a rugged game for both sides. Spain is the first team with quality big men could force the U.S. out of its comfort zone. This thing rests on the Gasols and Serge Ibaka, if he plays. The three of them have the size and skills to make this one interesting. Just throwing that out there now, before we get rolling.