LONDON (AFP) –
The United States Dream Team of NBA stars captured their second Olympic men’s basketball gold medal in a row and the 14th overall for America by beating Spain 107-100 in Sunday’s championship game.
The US multi-millionaire lineup of NBA elite claimed their fifth crown in the past six Olympics, improving to 62-1 since revamping the national team program after settling for bronze in 2004.
The Americans ran through the tournament undefeated just as they did in 2008 when they defeated Spain 118-107 in the Beijing final. The latest roster had five gold winners from Beijing and five from the US 2010 world champions.
But reigning European champion Spain, routed by the US NBA stars in a pre-Olympic exhibition game last month in Barcelona, stayed with the defending champions to the very end, keeping within reach until the final minutes.
Kevin Durant led the US stars with 30 points while LeBron James had 19 and Kobe Bryant added 17.
Pau Gasol, Bryant’s NBA Los Angeles Lakers‘ teammate, led Spain with 24 points while Juan-Carlos Navarro added 21 and Rudy Fernandez contributed 14.
The Americans led 83-82 entering the fourth quarter and began picking up the defensive intensity.
Chris Paul hit a 3-pointer and a layup to open a 12-3 US run early in the fourth quarter as the Americans’ matched their largest lead to that point at 97-87. Bryant had four points and Durant a 3-pointer in the spurt.
Navarro hit a jumper and Fernandez added a tip-in to pull Spain within 97-91.
James answered with a slam dunk and followed a Marc Gasol dunk with a 3-pointer to put the Americans ahead 102-93 with 1:59 remaining.
US players began celebrating with hugs when James and others were pulled from the court with 37 seconds to play. Paul and James Harden hit late free throws to seal the triumph.
The Americans gathered in a huddle and began jumping for joy seconds after the victory, celebrating with US flags in the moments after a hard-fought triumph.
At the start, hot-handed Navarro went 3-for-3 from 3-point range and scored 10 points in an early 12-5 Spain run.
But the Americans answered with an 18-4 spurt to seize a 25-16 edge. Carmelo Anthony had eight points in the span while Bryant had six, each of them hitting two 3-pointers in the spurt.
Fernandez slammed in an alley-oop dunk to pull Spain within 35-27 after the first quarter and ignite a 14-2 Spain spurt that put the Spanish ahead 39-37 and the game stayed tight through the remainder of the first half.
The Americans led 59-58 at half-time and Spain hung with them at the start of the third quarter thanks to Pau Gasol, who scored Spain’s first 13 points of the second half and keyed a 10-6 run to close the period.