U.S. again reigns over Spain for gold medal
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LONDON -- Great for most of the Olympics, just good enough for gold.
The U.S. men's basketball team fought off another huge challenge from Spain, pulling away in the final minutes Sunday for a 107-100 win and its second straight Olympic championship. And just like 2008, the star-studded Americans had to work for this one.
LeBron James capped one of basketball's most brilliant individual years with a monster dunk and a huge three-pointer in the final 2:50. That wrapped up a close, back-and-forth game that few would have seen coming after the Americans had been so dominant for so long in London.
Yet four years after beating Spain, 118-107, in a classic in Beijing, the United States found itself in another tight one, unable to slow down Spain until the closing minutes.
"We knew it wasn't going to be easy. We didn't want it easy," James said. "A lot of teams have won gold easy. We didn't want it that way. We're a competitive team and we love when it gets tight. That's when our will and determination kind of shows. It was the same way in '08."
Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has said he's retiring as national team coach after restoring the Americans to their place atop world basketball, emptied his bench in the final minute. James stood with both arms in the air, then held Durant in a long hug before both headed to the bench.
The Americans, who insisted they are better than their 2008 version and even good enough to take a game from the 1992 Dream Team, may not have been at that level in the final, but they were better than Spain -- though not by much.
The Americans hugged at midcourt, with James Harden holding a doll of the Olympic mascot. Then, after being handed flags, this group of NBA players (and one kid just out of college, Anthony Davis), who grew into a tight-knit group during their time together, paraded around the floor, the Stars and Stripes flowing off their backs like capes.
Yes, they were Olympic superheroes again, but they had to fight until the finish.
"To do it twice is a special moment," Carmelo Anthony said. "As the U.S. men's team, we go through a lot. For us to persevere the way we did is just a special moment for myself and for the guys who are on this team."
It was Kobe Bryant's last Olympic moment. "This is it for me," said Bryant, who scored 17 points and now has a second gold medal to go with his five NBA championships. "The other guys are good to go."
Pau Gasol scored 24 points and Juan Carlos Navarro had 21 for Spain, which again was only a few minutes from its first basketball gold but couldn't finish the job against the Americans.
It was the 14th gold medal for the Americans, who lost at least five players who might have been on the team when Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Derrick Rose had to pull out with injuries and Blake Griffin was hurt in training camp.