Team USA comes-from-behind to eliminate Spain in quarterfinal matchup
It took a big second half but the US men’s national team won the battle of the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the world, eliminating Spain in the process.
Team USA beat Spain, 95-81, Monday, Aug. 2 from the Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo, Japan.
“You’re going to have games where it’s tight,” forward Kevin Durant said. “We understand that and today it was good that we pulled away late. But we’re not expecting to come out here and beat everybody by 30.”
The win means Spain will not medal despite entering the Olympics as the defending FIBA World Cup champions.
Now the US are two wins away from a gold medal but must wait for the winner of Australia - Argentina before knowing its semifinal opponent.
“We’re not even looking at it that way,” Durant said. “Obviously, we know the situation we’re in but we’re trying to take it a day at a time and realize that this is a part of the process, get focused for the next day of practice and preparation for the next team that we play. But we’re not trying to look too far down toward the end goal, we’re just trying to focus on today.” The team had to fight off a valiant effort from Spain guard Ricky Rubio, who finished with 38 points on 13-of-20 shooting.
“They’re asking him to score more here,” Durant said. “In the league, it seems like the teams that he’s been on want him to run the show a little bit more and get guys involved. That just shows he can play different styles and he’s a versatile player.”
Rubio was on fire from the start, scoring 13 points in the first quarter as Spain ended the frame on a 11-2 run to take a 21-19 lead into the second quarter.
He would be held scoreless until the third quarter where he scored another 16 more.
Spain would build a lead as large as 11 points in the second quarter mainly off a 16-2 run.
At that point, the US was shooting 4-of-16 from beyond the arc.
However, Team USA did go on a 14-4 run to tie the game at 43 heading into halftime.
Durant only shot 1-for-4 from three in the first half but opened the second half hitting consecutive threes.
Another Durant three pushed the lead to nine and would eventually balloon to 14 due to a 22-6 run to open the second half.
“We just had to slow down a bit,” Durant said. “I think defensively we ramped up the intensity and were able to get the stops and that put us at ease a bit in the offense. Then we moved the ball and took the shots that we normally take and they happened to go in in the second half.”
Durant finished with a team-high 29 points on 10-of-17 shooting from the field.
The first second half field goal for Spain came nearly six minutes into the 10-minute quarter. Fighting to avoid elimination, Spain made another run to cut the deficit to six heading into the final quarter.
The lead was cut to as little as three but would jump back to double-digits.
“We knew it was a game of runs,” Durant said. “They made a few, then we made a few and we were able to withstand their punches and keep it going.”
Team USA shot 9-of-16 from three in the second half after being held to 4-of-16 in the first half.
Forward Jayson Tatum scored 10 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter to stave off Spain.