American men going for hoops glory

Posted: August 12, 2012

LONDON - The Americans left as champions four years ago and returned thinking they were even better.

This U.S. Olympic men's basketball team was an improved model over the 2008 version, players insisted, so versatile, so athletic that not only would they beat those gold medalists, but they also could even take a game from the Dream Team.

The stats back them up, and a place in history is awaiting this group of Americans, on one condition.

"I thought we had the potential to be really good, better than the '08 team, but the '08 team brought home gold, so we've got some unfinished business still left," LeBron James said Saturday.

And it comes Sunday vs. Spain, the team the Americans beat in an Olympic classic at the 2008 Beijing Games.

The U.S. team completed its climb back to the top of international basketball with a 118-107 victory, pulling away after Spain was within four points in the final 21/2 minutes. The game was 40 end-to-end minutes of all offense, and the Americans have the ability to be even more potent now.

They are averaging 116.7 points - just slightly off the Dream Team's record of 117.3 - and set the Olympic record with 156 in an 83-point victory over Nigeria. They are averaging 10 points more than the '08 squad and winning by eight more points per game, and with James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, and Carmelo Anthony, the U.S. team has enough hot hands to fill an octopus.

"We obviously have a lot of talent. Our team here is pretty ridiculous," Bryant said.

The rematch between the world's Nos. 1 and 2 teams was widely expected entering the Games, but Spain hasn't always looked up to the challenge in London.

The Spaniards lost twice in the preliminary round, then fell into an 11-point halftime deficit against Russia in the semifinals after managing just 20 points. Spain rallied for a 67-59 victory, saying afterward how rewarding it was just to get to the gold-medal game while facing a number of injuries.

And as they hugged members of the Spanish royal family, then talked about the difficult circumstances they've overcome, they had the appearance of a team whose work was done, more ready for a vacation than another game within 48 hours.

"They're probably fooling you guys," Durant said. "They're a really, really good team. They play hard, they're a tough team, competitive, so it's not going to be a walk in the park for us."

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|