Even though USA had the edge 83-82 at the start of the fourth quarter the Americans were pushed to the brink.
The final few minutes were dramatic. With 3:20 left and USA leading 97-91, Carmelo Anthony had to leave the game with an ankle twist. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kevin Lowe and Chris Paul were the finishers for Team USA. Spain still had the height advantage on the floor. Rudy Fernandez fouled out for Spain. A critical defensive lapse by Spain allowed James to drive the basket for two. James followed with a three on the next USA possession.
After a driving layup by Paul with 51 seconds remaining, Coach Mike Krzyzewski showed some theatrics that we don’t typically get to see from the legendary coach. It was 104-93 as “Coach K” was jumping for joy near the bench. He substituted freely during the last minute. It was a team victory and everyone participated. Krzyzewski wanted to emphasize that. With 12 seconds left it was 106-100. James Harden missed a USA free throw but made the second. Spain came down the court quickly for a three attempt. It missed and Anthony Davis grabbed the final rebound.
“Coach K” said immediately after, “We beat a great team. My guys cooperated, everyone told me that they would do whatever was needed. Come off the bench, play defense, the cooperation was tremendous.”
It was a compelling and dramatic final game. The victory was dictated by the USA defense and the ability to lock-down the Spanish drives inside. Durant led all scorers with 30 points.
Earlier in the day, Russia beat Argentina 81-77 for the bronze medal.
James said post game, “It was great. I’m happy I was a part of it. I never thought a second about after I was in Miami and won a championship about me playing. I made a commitment, I wanted to be a part of this, and this is the reason why I came to be a part of this team: To have this bouquet of flowers and a gold medal.”
Krzyzewski had said earlier that this was his last Olympics. Another Chicago native son, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo, who hired Krzyzewski in 2005, isn’t going to let him leave the program so easily. Colangelo plans to take another shot at persuading Krzyzewski to stay for one more attempt and coach the Rio, Brazil Olympic Games in 2016. “He’s said this is it and I’ll respect his choice,” Colangelo said in London. “But knowing me as I know me, I’ll have that conversation and we’ll see.”
With the win, Krzyzewski joins Henry Iba (1964 and 1968) as the only U.S. coaches to lead teams to consecutive Olympic gold medals.
By Raymond Rolak