U.S. Steamrolls Spain, 119-82
Kobe Bryant sent a not-so-subtle message early in the United States' game against Spain, when he spotted forward Pau Gasol approaching to him to set a pick and delivered a forearm shiver that knocked Gasol on his backside. Bryant may be Gasol's teammate with the Los Angeles Lakers, but red, white and blue is thicker than purple and gold when international pride is on the line.
"I let them know and let my team know, that's my man. I truly love him like a brother. We can't be any more close - but I'm steamrolling you. I'm going to take this from you," Bryant said. "My teammates saw that, they were like we're ready to play. I think Spain saw it and said, 'Oh [shoot]!"
Bryant's knockdown of Gasol was similar to the way the United States pummeled Spain, 119-82, on Saturday at Wukesong Arena - it was somewhat surprising and almost unfair. LeBron James scored 18 points to lead eight players in double figures as the Americans improved to 4-0 in this tournament, winning each game by more than 20 points.
Oddly enough, Spain was the most talented team the U.S. faced, but the Americans won in more convincing fashion than they did against China, Angola or Greece. The victory clinched the top seed in Group B, regardless of what happens on Monday against Germany. The U.S. will face either Australia or Croatia in the first round of the quarterfinals on Wednesday.
The U.S. fed off its emotion against Greece, motivated by a desire to avenge an embarrassing loss in the 2006 world championships. Against Spain, the U.S. had simply looked at a roster of players that either do play (Gasol and Toronto Raptors guard Jose Calderon), have played (Juan Carlos Navarro, Jorge Garbajosa and Raul Lopez) or will play (Rudy Fernandez, Marc Gasol and possibly 17-year-old Ricky Rubio) in the NBA. Spain, which entered the game undefeated, is the reigning world champions and stood as one the Americans' toughest challengers for a gold medal.
The U.S. wanted to use its 23-point demolition of Greece to send the message of how much the team has improved in the past two years. With its lopsided victory against Spain, the U.S. may have sent the message that no team in these Olympics is even close if the Americans play at the top of their game.
The Americans played aggressive, swarming defense to disrupt Spain and create havoc. Spain had been averaging just below 15 turnovers per game in this tournament, but the U.S. forced 17 turnovers in the first half alone, and 28 for the entire game. It also outscored Spain 32-0 in fastbreak points. "I've never seen nothing like that," Carmelo Anthony said.
The U.S. played, by far, its best game in the Olympics and finally solved the mystery of the international three-point line, as the Americans shot 12 of 25 from long distance. Anthony made four of his six three-point attenmps and had 16 points. Wade added 16 off the bench and Chris Paul had an impressive stat line with 14 points, eight assists, five steals and five rebounds. James also had eight rebounds and four steals.
Felipe Reyes led Spain with 19 points. A group of Chinese fans chanted "Kobe! Kobe!" in the final 90 seconds of the game, and didn't stop until Bryant raised his hand to acknowledge them. Bryant finished with 10.
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