Yes there was a lack of serious star power. Yes there moments where the cohesion on both ends of the court. However, when the chips were on the table, Team USA stepped up to the challenge. Two Sunday ago led by the newest member of the Golden State Warriors and the newest decorated player of USA Olympic basketball, they accomplished their ultimate goal.
Led by the 30 points of the newest member of the Golden State Warriors Kevin Durant on 10 for 19 shooting, including 5 for 11 from three-point range, the United States in their most complete game on both ends defeated Serbia 96-66 in the Gold Medal came to capture their third consecutive gold medal at Carioca Arena 1 in Rio de Janeiro winning all eight of their contest won all eight of their games.
This was their 25th straight win in Olympic competition and their 53rd consecutive victory in major competition, which includes the Olympics going back to 2008; the 2010 FIBA World Cup and FIBA Americas games.
For Durant, this was his second Gold Medal in Olympic competition. New York Knicks’ forward Carmelo Anthony won his third Gold Medal and fourth overall medal. For the rest of the team, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green of the Warriors; Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls; DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers; Harrison Barnes of the Dallas Mavericks; Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors; Paul George of the Indiana Pacers; DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings and Kyrie Irving of the World Champion Cleveland Cavaliers won their first Gold Medals.
This game encapsulated the entire run by the United States, especially in last three games of the tournament.
They got off to a rough start leading by just four (19-15) after the first period as they were plagued once again by too much isolation at the offensive end and not enough ball or man movement.
It was those same issues that Team USA faced in their nail biting wins versus Serbia in the four game of the preliminary round against Serbia (94-91) back on Aug. 12 and against France (100-97) in the fifth game.
That all changed in the second quarter this past Sunday where the US outscored Serbia 33-14 in the second period. There was plenty of ball and man movement and that resulted in Durant outscoring the entire Serbian team by himself in the second quarter 18-14, which gave Team USA a 52-29 lead at intermission and they never looked back.
With the victory, New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, who had seven points and seven rebounds on Sunday won his third straight Gold Medal, establishing a new record for most Olympic gold medals won by a single player. He also became the first four-time Olympian.
“We fought. It wasn’t always pretty. We came together on July 17 and awe all committed for this one reason right now and it was a special moment for me,” an emotional Anthony said to NBC’s Ros Gold-Onwude after the victory back on Aug 21.
That emotion came from a very sour first experience in the Olympics back in 2004 in Athens where the United States went just 5-3 in that tournament and received the Bronze.
It was from that point that Team USA Men’s Managing Director Jerry Colangelo set to put together the team using a different plan. He wanted to construct the team going forward based on a team concept. Of star NBA players that were not just about themselves, but about playing together on both ends. That would represent the best of the United States of America.
An important part of structuring the team was having the right head coach to lead the charge and Colangelo chose Hall of Fame head coach of Duke University Mike Krzyzewski, who was an assistant on the 1992 Dream Team.
Among the things that Coach K did was he would have special guest like having former Olympian and color analyst for NBC during the Olympics Doug Collins and other times he asked members of the U.S. Military to come and speak to Team USA the last three Olympics.
What Coach K was trying to show from these speakers that in order to accomplish a great feet which the team has done in the Olympics and the World Cup over the past few years is that they have to play together on both ends. That they each had to sacrifice some part of their game so that the team can flourish together.
That occurred in Team USA’s run to gold. In the Gold Medal contest, Cousins of the Sacramento Kings, who had some struggles with foul trouble during the tournament was a big spark off the bench with 13 points and 15 boards.
Thompson, who could not make a shot to save his life for much of this tournament had a solid performance two Sundays ago with 12 points.
That commitment to putting the team first and playing together as one has resulted in a 75-1 mark under the direction of the Hall of Fame head coach of Duke University and three Gold Medals in the Olympics.
That teamwork was on full display in the aforementioned Gold Medal Game two Sundays ago when Team USA had 30 fast break points, scored 26 points off of Serbia’s turnovers and held Serbia to 38 percent shooting from the floor.
The rise back to greatness has been a nice site to see for Team USA, especially since for nearly the past decade because the world has caught up in terms of that they do not fear and Team USA’s opponent Serbia back on Aug. 21 is the perfect example.
In the 2014 World Cup Gold Medal Game, Team USA dominated 129-92. Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers scored 26 points in that game going 6 for 6 from three-point range. Team USA shot 58 percent from the field and outscored Serbia by a plus 30 from long range.
In their aforementioned first encounter of the 2016 Olympics back on Aug. 12, the contest was much closer because former NBA player Miroslav Raduljica and forward for the Denver Nuggets Nikola Jokic combined for 43 points going 17 for 28 from the field. Serbia as a team shot 52 percent from the field and they were a plus-nine from three-point land against the U.S.
Unlike Olympics from before, teams across the globe have NBA representation and that is in part thanks to the 1992 Dream Team.
With that being said, Team USA has proven that they are still the best team in the world and even though this was the last run for Coach K, who for certain will be replaced by five-time NBA champion head coach of the San Antonio Spurs Gregg Popovich and Anthony, this is not the end for U.S. Men’s National Team.
While Popovich will bring a different style of coaching to the team in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the standard and the goal will remain the same.
The roster will be different and have more star power like past Olympians like LeBron James, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook to name a few, but the same team mindset of we and not me.
The journey to Gold in Rio was not an easy one for Team USA. They had many close games where they could have been on the wrong side of the scoreboard. There were times they did not share the ball on offense and they were not cohesive on defense. Still at the end of the day, they made to the Gold Medal Game and won it as a team. That certainly meant a lot to Anthony, who as mentioned earlier earned a bronze in his first Olympics in Athens 12 years ago and has won Gold in his next three opportunities.
“I’ve seen the worst and I’ve seen the best and I stuck with it and I’m here today three Gold medals later,” Anthony said to Gold-Onwude.
“I’m excited for me, but also for the other guys who never experienced this. Coach K. Myself. Jerry Colangelo and everybody else whose been a part of USAB since I’ve been here, I just want to say thank you for allowing me to be one of the leaders of not just our team, but our country. Despite everything that’s going on right now in our country, we got to be united and I’m glad I did what I did. I stepped up to the challenge, but this is what it’s all about. Representing our country on the biggest stage that you could be on. America will be great again. I believe that. We got a lot of work to do.”Information, statistics and quotations are courtesy of 8/21/16 2:15 p.m. Gold Medal Fame of Basketball at Olympics in Rio United States versus Serbia on WNBC (Ch. 4 in New York) with Marv Albert, Doug Collins and Ros Gold-Onwude; www.usab.com/mens/national-team/roster.aspx; 8/21/16 www.nbcolympics.com article, “Team USA Romps To Third Straight Gold Medal,” by Bill Leopold; www.usab.com/mens/national-team/olympic-schedule.aspx; http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Colangelo#Basketball; http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Krzyzewski#National_team.