Talented U.S. may only get better
The U.S. overcame Spain's great play but was helped by shaky coaching
Pau Gasol was masterful, but Spain was hurt by Marc Gasol's foul trouble
With some international stars aging, the U.S. should be favored in Rio too
LONDON -- Three thoughts from Team USA's 107-100 win...
1. What a game. This one had everything: Lead changes, great shooting, great post play, physical play. This game didn't just live up to its billing, it exceeded it. The U.S. flexed its depth in the semifinals against Argentina, and did again against Spain: Ten players scored and four finished in double figures, led by Kevin Durant (30), who continued his tournament-long assault on the three-point line (5-13). LeBron James (19 points) didn't dominate the same way he has this tournament, but his backbreaking three with 1:52 to play swelled the U.S. lead to nine, an edge that proved insurmountable.
Don't interpret the final score as the U.S. struggling in many ways, either. They played a smart, talented disciplined Spain team that dominated the paint (48 points) with Pau Gasol and knocked down timely threes, led by crafty 32-year old guard Juan Carlos Navarro (21 points).
Spain's weak link? How about head coach Sergio Scariolo. Scariolo made numerous questionable decisions, beginning with leaving Marc Gasol in with three fouls early in the second quarter (Gasol picked up his fourth seconds later) and including opening the fourth with both Gasols on the bench. All in all, it was a tough game for Scariolo.
2. The Tao of Pau. Gasol was a monster. The 7-footer dominated the U.S. on the inside, finishing with 24 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Whenever the U.S. tried to pull ahead, Gasol was there, spinning, twisting and driving, completely overwhelming every defender the U.S. stuck on him. It was a masterful performance. Spain will walk away with a lot of what-ifs, but a big one will be what could have happened had Marc Gasol not landed in early foul trouble. Serge Ibaka (12 points, nine rebounds) stepped up, but having two pure post players might have made the difference.
3. The world's last stand? Consider the age of some key players on the elite teams: Pau Gasol, 32; Manu Ginobili, 35; Luis Scola, 32; Andrei Kirilenko, 31; Sarunas Jasikevicius, 36. While the U.S. continues to churn out elite 20-something talent at every position, several perennial powerhouses have not replenished the ranks quite so well. Of course, a lot can happen in four years; but looking at the rosters it's not hard to imagine the U.S. going into Rio as an even bigger favorite in 2016.