U.S. men trample Argentina, set up gold-medal game with Spain
LONDON – The rematch is here, but not the same cast of characters.
Spain does not have Ricky Rubio but does have a healthy Jose Calderon and Marc Gasol.
The United States doesn’t have Dwyane Wade or Dwight Howard but has the young guns from Oklahoma City.
The two meet again for the gold medal Sunday, with most fans remembering the Americans’ difficult 11-point victory in Beijing, with Spain closing to within two points in the fourth quarter before Kobe Bryant assumed control.
Friday’s semifinals set that up with Spain wiping out a 13-point deficit to beat Russia 67-59.
Then the U.S., showing the explosive scoring burst that has been a staple during this tournament, whacked Argentina 109-83.
“You got three scorers on this team who can get blistering hot when they make two shots in a row,” Bryant said. “It’s crazy. Kevin (Durant), Melo (Carmelo Anthony) and myself, we can hit two shots each in a row and a 10-point lead becomes 20.”
“We have a lot of firepower,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “But our guys do a great job of realizing who’s hot and feeding him.”
The U. S. has outscored its seven rivals by an average of 35.7 points.
Only Durant, Chris Paul and LeBron James are averaging 24 or more minutes. Durant leads the American scorers with an 18-point average and Kevin Love is the top rebounder with 52 overall, 24 on the offensive end.
In this game, Paul and Deron Williams combined for 13 assists and no turnovers, and Durant and James had 19 points apiece and Anthony 18.
Bryant scored seven points in the first five minutes. He shot 5 for 10 and scored 13.
In the first game, Gasol had 16 points and 12 rebounds and Calderon, the Toronto Raptors’ point guard, scored 14 with three assists.
Juan Carlos Navarro is still out with injury. But the Spanish have the Gasol brothers and NBA shot-blocking leader Serge Ibaka up front.
“Marc is the biggest difference because his skills and confidence have really improved from last time,” Bryant said.
“I think this is fitting,” James said. “It’s the game everybody wanted to see.”