The dream of Spain and the dream of Pau Gasol, and the entire generation he represents, came to an end in Tokyo. The United States was erected on an insurmountable wall, as has happened in the last editions of the Games (81-95). Since Athens, the ‘dream team’ has limited the ceiling of the golden generation of Spanish basketball. In 2004 it was in the quarterfinals, in London and Rio, in the final, and in Rio, in the semifinals. History repeated itself in Saitama.
Durant, with 27 points, but also Tatum (13), and Holiday (12) and the rest of the American stars lowered the curtain on the career of Pau Gasol and who knows if any other player from that group, and left the great game without a prize of Ricky Rubio, huge, a superlative performance, with 38 points, which kept the team with breath until the end.
It was difficult for the national team to enter the game due to an excess of motivation. Scariolo’s players started very fast to balance the speed and the intense game of the USA and to counteract the aggressiveness of their defense. Only Ricky Rubio kept up that pace. But, at the level it is in this tournament, it was enough to sustain Spain. The point guard of El Masnou added 13 of the first points. The other four were from Claver. But Popovich’s selection was comfortable, especially with a heavily plugged Durant.
It took Scariolo to move the bench to change the dynamics and increase consistency. The change, curiously, came when Ricky went to the bench because Sergio Rodríguez took over the scoring relay with the spark that usually characterizes the canary (10 points and impressive determination) but above all because the entry of Willy Hernangómez and Garuba, with the two Gasol brothers on the bench, shielded the Spanish defense and turned the rebound.
Suddenly Spain found itself not only limiting the Americans’ comfortable 3-pointers but as the sole dominator under the hoops, with a sublime Hernangómez. He also shielded his zone with four blocks in the second quarter that sent Scariolo’s players flying.
The team shot up to a 10-point difference (39-29) in a few minutes of authentic confusion for the United States, which required two timeouts from Popovich, a return to the court by Lillard and a new scoring arreón from Durant to get back on the game. encounter and go with the tie at halftime (43-43).
The United States, however, returned from the locker room with a much better mentality and above all faithful to the script designed by their coach to move and share the ball better to find comfortable positions for their shooters. Booker and Lavine made their appearance. But above all, Durant emerged with all his punch and the partial of the first six minutes of the third period was devastating for the current Olympic champion who, suddenly, found a gap of 16 points (49-65) that seemed like a sentence anticipated.
In this situation of maximum pressure, Scariolo again made a risky decision. He sat down Marc and put two bases on the track (Ricky and Sergio Rodríguez) and played several minutes with four exteriors, with Ricky again assuming responsibility in attack and that change of approach was rewarded with a 14-4 partial for the selection, which opened the scene for the last period (63-69, m. 30).
The effort of Spain was commendable but insufficient against a very plugged rival and that found resources beyond Durant, either Tatum, Lillard or Lavine, while in the national team, Ricky Rubio found himself too alone in the battle and although the Catalan base endured margins around ten points, the US did not lower the level and ended up scoring a victory that will lead to the fight for the medals.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.