Spain gave the United States a game, but the USA were able to keep the Spanish squad an arms length away for a 82-76win and to advance to the gold medal game in the Rio Olympics.
The first half was unbelievably choppy and marred by really shaky officiating in which five (five!) technicals were handed out. It was a nice reminder that even though we all like to complain about NBA officiating, those are still the best referees in the world and it could always get far, far worse.
In the second half and the fourth quarter specifically, the United States locked down on defense and really worked over Spain in the beginning of the fourth while Pau Gasol rested. Spain couldn't get to the line or manufacture many good looks for much of the second half until a late burst to make the game competitive at the end.
Kyrie Irving didn't have one of his best games, finishing with 13 points and never really found himself in much of a rhythm at any point in the game. He wasn't bad, but he didn't stand out in the way that you'd hope. Instead, the United States were led by Klay Thompson and DeAndre Jordan who both had standout games in their own ways. DeAndre Jordan ate Spain alive on the boards, tying an Olympic record with 16 rebounds and 9 points. Thompson was active looking for his shot and he was hitting, finishing with 22 points on 4-8 shooting from three.
On the Spanish end, Pau Gasol turned in a vintage Pau performance, finishing with 23 points and 8 boards as one of only two Spaniards in double figures. New 76er and personal favorite Sergio Rodriguez ran the Spanish offense well with 11 points and 5 assists as well. This team has been a world power for a long time, and it's not quite their last hurrah like it was for Argentina. This team has young stars and should remain a factor in international basketball for some time.
Again the United States looked vulnerable, but a vulnerable United States is still far and away the best team in this Olympic field. Their opposition is going to have to play a nearly perfect game if they want to beat them, but they are probably beatable. It'll be fun to see how much they get challenged in the finale. It's very exciting to watch Team USA have to sweat out some games for once.
The United States will face off against the winner of the Australia-Serbia tilt for the gold medal on Sunday. Both teams played the USA incredibly tough during pool play, and even with Team USA more locked in the knockout round, neither should be an easy win.
Spain will face the loser of the opposing semifinal to try to take home the bronze.