It didn't come without a fight, but once again, the United States men's basketball team earned Olympic gold, beating Spain, 107-100, in a fantastic game.
Every time the United States looked poised to pull away, the scrappy Spaniards responded, keeping things close throughout. In a tournament that the Americans often easily dominated, it was a lot of fun to see a gold-medal game that was competitive from start to finish.
Juan-Carlos Navarro was brilliant for Spain in the first half and finished with 21 points, while Pau Gasol carried the load in the second half, finishing with 24 points and eight rebounds.
But nobody could keep up with Kevin Durant, who was brilliant throughout and finished with a game-high 30 points and also added nine rebounds. In the end, the depth and talent of the United States was simply too much for Spain to deal with.
Who was the better team: The 1992 Dream Team or the 2012 version?
The game was somewhat diminished by the referees, who were whistle-happy in this one. Marc Gasol spent a good deal of time on the bench after notching four fouls in the first half, and by the fourth quarter, a slew of players were sitting on four fouls.
The United States also got away from its strengths on occasion, jacking up an absurd 37 three-point shots, though the Americans did make 15 of them, living more than dying beyond the arc.
In all, this was an excellent, competitive game. Let's hand out some hardware and see what the Twitterverse had to say about the gold-medal matchup between the world's two basketball powers.
Grades for Key Players
Kevin Durant: A+
He was the best player on the court, hands down.
His 30 points were remarkable enough, but he also added nine rebounds. In all, Durant finished the tournament with an Olympic-record 153 points, impressive considering the all-star team he was playing with.
Pau Gasol: A-
He wasn't a major factor early, but his 13 points in the third quarter were huge and kept Spain close in this one. He's one of, if not the best international player in basketball today, and he proved that once again with his effort in the gold-medal game.
LeBron James: B+
The "B" part of this grade comes from the fact that LeBron wasn't a huge factor until the fourth quarter. The "+" part comes from the fact that he was clutch when it mattered most, scoring seven of his 19 points in the fourth quarter despite four fouls.
Chris Paul: B+
Like LeBron, he waited until the fourth quarter to truly step up. And like LeBron, he picked the perfect time, scoring six of his 11 points in the fourth quarter and dictating the flow of the game from the point-guard position.
Juan-Carlos Navarro: B+
Navarro was huge in the first half, scoring 17 points, and he finished with 21 points in total. But he wasn't nearly as effective in the second half, a major factor in Spain's inability to hang with the United States in the end.
Kevin Love: A-
His nine points and nine rebounds may not jump off the stat sheet, but Love was huge for the United States down low, especially down the stretch. On a team with a ton of talent, but one that lacked the same talent on the block that Spain possessed, Love's contribution in this one was priceless.
Pete Thamel opens our memorable tweets with a note about LeBron James' new clutch gene. James came up big for Team USA both in this tournament and in the fourth quarter of the gold-medal game:
If they kept a statistic for dagger shots, LeBron would set the record this year. #thingsnoonetweetedin2010— Pete Thamel(@SIPeteThamel) August 12, 2012
And as ESPN notes, LeBron now completes one of the most amazing runs we've ever seen:
In the past year, LeBron James has won an the NBA regular season MVP, an NBA title, the NBA Finals MVP, and a gold medal.— ESPN (@espn) August 12, 2012
As SportsCenter points out, that Coach K guy has been a pretty huge force for Team USA basketball:
Team USA has an overall record of 62-1 with Mike Krzyzewski as the head coach.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 12, 2012
Scott Van Pelt doesn't bother comparing this team to the original Dream Team. He simply points out the obvious impact that 1992 team had, which is apparent all these years later:
Dream team has a legacy & it's safe. The impact of 92 is seen 20 years later in the challenges USA faces from kids who watched everywhere— Scott Van Pelt (@notthefakeSVP) August 12, 2012
The Dream Team made basketball relevant internationally once again. And this team not only proved that, but also showed that Team USA remains far ahead of the international pack.
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets are gold like the Team USA women.