RIO DE JANEIRO —
The U.S. men's basketball team overpowered Serbia, 96-66, to win the last gold medal awarded at the Rio Olympics.
While the U.S. men came into Sunday's championship game undefeated in seven games in Rio, Serbia had lost to the Americans in preliminary group play by only three points.
In the first quarter of the gold medal match, it looked like it might be another close game. The Serbians held the lead a number of times in the early going, but just as the quarter ended, NBA superstar Kevin Durant hit a 3-pointer to give Team USA a 19-15 lead.
Then in the second quarter, Durant took over the game, knocking down four more jump shots from long range.
“I just woke up, I guess,” said Durant.” My teammates were supporting me. They were cheering me on along the way, and everybody was encouraging me, and I just went out there and had fun with the game. And when I'm smiling out there and screaming, and beating my chest - showing emotion - that's really when I'm lost in the game. And I just tried to go out there and be who I am.”
Durant scored 18 of his game high 30 points in the second quarter, finishing the first half with 24, as the Americans led 52-29. They were never threatened after the intermission, and in the fourth quarter even held a 41-point advantage. Their 30-point margin of victory is the largest of any men's Olympic basketball final.
For U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski, it's the third straight Olympics he has guided the U.S. men's team to the gold medal. At his post-game news conference, he was asked what he's most proud of, considering he has coached three very different types of American teams at the Summer Games.
“What I love most is these guys who have made these commitments, because it's set the example for a younger generation in the United States as to where now everybody is proud of USA Basketball,” said the man known simply as Coach K. “It's not just how they've played, but how they acted and how unselfish they were.”
The player who has been on all three of Coach K's Olympic gold medal teams is Carmelo Anthony.
“The way that we locked in and that we focused in to be able to have this gold medal around our necks was special,” said Anthony. “We locked in each game in the medal round. It was another focus level that we took ourselves to. And at the end of the day when you're playing around guys who have played in big game situations in big moments, you can trust in them, rely on them, knowing they will perform at a high level.”
Serbian coach Sasha Djordjevic said it was not just difficult to stop Durant, but trying to stop such a talented team is no easy task.
“When you have 12 guys that are superstars, if you let them play like they want, you know, they will kill you. Each of their 12 guys can do that. They are capable of that. They do it throughout their (NBA) season and their careers.”
Djordjevic added that his team should be happy with the silver medal despite the lopsided score.
“The result, in the end, it was 30 points. We didn't want to go (finish) like that, but in the end we need to congratulate them. They're better. They showed that tonight.”
Earlier Sunday for the bronze medal, Spain edged Australia, 89-88, in a thrilling game in which the lead changed hands 13 times in the last five and a-half minutes. The winning points for Spain came on free throws at the end from Sergio Rodriguez.