Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
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# medal match
'Game seven': USA ready to take home basketball gold
Spain stand in the way as the ‘dream team’ seek a fifth gold in six Olympiads.

THE US OLYMPIC basketball ‘dream team’ are going for a golden repeat against reigning European champions Spain in this afternoon’s final.

The Americans have run through the tournament undefeated as they did in 2008 when they beat Spain 118-107 in the Beijing final.

Five members of that team and five from the US 2010 world championship team are in the London lineup.

Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have been crucial to both US Olympic squads, and Anthony sees this year’s squad as the best of the bunch.

“We’re better than we were in ’08 because we’re all better,” he said. “It’s hard to believe that Kobe and LeBron can be better than they were in ’08, but everybody is a lot better. We have a lot more shooters, are a lot more athletic and this team’s really really together.”

The US team is 61-1 since settling for bronze in 2004 and revamping the program to create the 2008 “Redeem Team” and the current US squad of NBA multi-millionaires whose dynasty inspires top efforts from every rival.

“Each and every night we understand we have a target on our backs,” said US playmaker Andre Iguodala. “We have to be ready to play our best basketball because any given night in these times anybody can win.”

The Spaniards are not just any team, featuring NBA big man Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka plus NBA forward Rudy Fernandez and NBA guard Jose Calderon, who missed the 2008 final with an injury.

“It’s going to feel great to play four years later. It’s unbelievable,” Calderon said. “Anything can happen. They are the ones with the pressure. They are the ones everybody thinks will win by 20 or 30 points. We’re just going to enjoy it. We’ve got our chances and we will do our best.”


“We fought hard throughout the game in ’08,” added Pau Gasol. “We understand it’s going to be a difficult game. We’re not going to fight any less now. This is a huge opportunity.”

The US NBA stars beat Spain in a pre-Olympic exhibition at Barcelona in July when Marc Gasol was injured and have looked foward to an Olympic rematch.

“Everybody said this is the game that they wanted to see, so we look forward to it,” James said. “We have to rebound, we have to defend and we have to share the ball offensively. We look forward to the challenge.”

Argentine NBA star Emanuel Ginobili, whose team upset the US squad at the 2004 Olympics but lost to the NBA Dream Team in the next two Olympic semi-finals, gives Spain a chance.

“Definitely (Spain can win),” Ginobili said. “They have to play an almost perfect game and they have to force them to play 5-on-5 and not let them run, but they can be beaten. It’s not easy. The odds are not with Spain, but if you play your best game and they are not very inspired, you have a shot.”

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Kevin Durant dunks against Argentina. Eric Gay/AP/Press Association Images.

US coach Mike Krzyzewski knows all-too well that Spain could pull the upset shocker unless the US NBA stars are on their game from the start.

“We need to hold our own on the boards against them and play good inside defence,” Krzyzewski said.

“They have one of the type five players in the world on their team in Pau Gasol. They are a team that definitely could beat us and we respect them.”

NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant compares the Olympic final atmosphere to a seventh game in the best-of-seven NBA Final.

“This is a game seven,” he said. “Spain is going to be a tough opponent. They are going to come out and give us their best shot. We have our work cut out for us. We like a challenge.”

- © AFP, 2012

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