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USA Basketball Heads to the Finals in Search of Gold

USA Gold Medal via rio2016.com

After nearly two weeks of competition the US Men’s and Women’s basketball teams are right where they thought they would be, in the gold medal game. Prior to the start of the games both teams were favorites. While the women dominated, the men had a slightly more difficult path to the final.

The US women beat France on Thursday 86-67. The victory advances the USA into the golden medal game where they will face off against Spain Saturday afternoon. They came out of the gate a little slow after their point guard, Sue Bird, was sidelined with a knee sprain suffered in their previous game. The US is exceptionally deep; however, Bird’s presence was missed. Not the leading scorer, Bird controls the flow of the game and provides order in a sometimes hectic game. When you have a team that starts Maya Moore, Diana Taurasi and Brittany Griner the loss of Bird is felt but not insurmountable.

Team USA is bigger, faster and stronger and come Saturday should be the proud new owners of some golden hardware. “I understand it’s a gold medal game, we’ve approached it like any other game,” said Bird, who has helped the U.S. win the last three golds at the Olympics. “At the start of this entire month, every single practice and game we approached it like it was a gold medal game. Today’s no different.” Spain has never won an Olympic medal and has guaranteed at least a silver in Rio.

The men’s team punched their ticket to the gold medal game with an 82-76 victory over Spain. Many started to question whether the US men’s team would make the finals after stumbling through pool play with two games won by 3 points. Since advancing to elimination games the US has brought a new energy and focus that has propelled them to the finals.

In the quarterfinals the US handled Argentina never putting a victory in doubt. They started off slow but ultimately 4 players scored in double figures with Kevin Durant leading the way with 27 points. With a lineup filled with NAB all-stars the size and power was too much for Argentina.

The semifinal game was much closer but still never in doubt. Team USA lead from start to finish even with a sluggish offense. The first half provided less than polished offense with five technical fouls being called including four on Spain. “Whatever was happening there, they felt I think they had to take control,” Krzyzewski said. “But it became very sensitive. In other words, you better not even ask a question.” Durant suffered early foul trouble but new teammate Klay Thompson picked up the slack giving them a six-point lead into the half. It seemed like every time Spain made a run to get close, the US locked down defensively and answered with a run of their own. Neither team shot particularly well the US at 42% and Spain at 38%.

Team USA still suffers from standing and watching fellow teammates try and go one on one. They have the talent to cover come this but they would be unstoppable if they started moving without the ball and passing for the open shot in rhythm. “We got one game, and that’s what we came here for,” four-time Olympian Carmelo Anthony said. “We don’t want to leave with nothing less than a gold medal.”

They will face off against Serbia Sunday. This is the same team they beat by 3 points earlier in pool play. “I think when the stakes are the highest, that’s when we all play the best,” Thompson said. “And they won’t be any higher than Sunday, so I expect a great effort from all of us.”

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