Monday, August 25, 2008

USA Returns to Gold

On Sunday, Team USA beat Spain 118-107 to win the gold medal in men's basketball at the Beijing Olympics. The win marks Team USA's first Olympic gold medal in men's basketball since the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Unfortunately, since the Olympic basketball final aired live at 3:00 AM Eastern time on Saturday night/Sunday morning, most people probably didn't get to see it. And if that's the case, they missed a really fun, exciting game.

Spain gave Team USA all it could handle -- especially under the basket, where Spain's twin tower Gasol brothers (the Lakers' Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol) couldn't be kept off the glass.

But thanks to a spectacular first half performance by Dwayne Wade (who subbed for Kobe Bryant when Kobe was saddled with early foul trouble) and designated go to "closer" Kobe Bryant's heady decision to take over in the final minutes of the game, the Team USA proved to be too much for the scrappy Spaniards.

After having found the previous two U.S. teams (2000 & 2004) difficult to watch -- those editions of Team USA had too many egos, too many ball hogs, not enough defense, not enough teamwork, etc. -- it was a joy to see this U.S. team buy into their respective roles and "leave it all on the floor."

Sure, the U.S. team was perimeter heavy & not very big in the interior. And yeah, Spain got into the lane at will (the culprit often being whomever Chris Paul was guarding) and got too many rebounds and second chance opportunities.

But it was just outright fun to watch Dwayne Wade come off the bench and explode for 21 points in the 1st half, with a crazy burst of energy (knowing that he was merely spelling Kobe, and could lay it all on the line rather than pace himself in order to remain strong throughout the game). As a role player, Wade had the luxury of gambling on defense, over playing the passing lanes to an almost ridiculous degree and gunning for weak side steals on ball handlers.

The result was a flurry of steals and fast break dunks that one doesn't normally see in NBA games.

Credit U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski for being able to get his players to accept their respective roles and gel as a team ... a team dedicated to the common goal of winning Olympic Gold. And credit Krzyzewski and Team USA President, Jerry Colangelo, for assembling a roster with the right combination of basketball talent and character to achieve that goal.

(Image: New York Times)

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