RIO DE JANEIRO (Rio 2016 Olympic Games) - The USA beat Spain, 82-76, in Friday's first Semi-Final of the Olympic Basketball Tournament to advance to Sunday's Gold Medal Game.
In a re-match of the Gold Medal Games at the last two Olympics, the Americans never trailed but Spain stayed within striking distance for much of the game and the victory for Mike Krzyzewski's side was not secured until the closing minutes.
Kyle Lowry came off the bench and scored five quick points late in the first quarter, including a three-pointer in the dying seconds that gave the USA a 26-17 lead.
They took the first double-digit lead of the game, 30-20 with 7:13 left in the first half before Spain went on a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to 33-30. Klay Thompson - who had 12 points in the period - helped the Americans head back to the locker room with a 45-39 advantage at the break.
The USA stretched their lead back to double-digits when Carmelo Anthony converted a three-point play with 6:20 left in the third quarter. Spain got within 61-55 but headed into the fourth quarter trailing 66-57.
Lowry and Paul George pushed the lead up to as many as 15 early in the final frame. A three-point shootout then ensued with Juan-Carlos Navarro hitting one, only for Thompson answering right back, before Nikola Mirotic and Kyrie Irving got in on the action. Mirotic cut the deficit to 78-69 but a runner in the lane by Kevin Durant and a George dunk were enough to put the outcome of the game beyond doubt.
Turning Point: DeAndre Jordan soared for a high-flying put-back dunk off a missed Thompson three-point attempt for a 61-50 USA lead with 3:44 left in the third quarter. It sent a message to Spain.
Stats Don't Lie: The USA did a bang-up job on the boards, out-rebounding Spain 53-41, with 21 of those coming on the offensive end.
Hero: Jordan was a forced to be reckoned with inside, with 9 points, 16 rebounds and 4 blocks. Thompson and Lowry scored a number of timely baskets throughout the game to deflate Spain. Thompson finished with a game-high 22 points and Lowry had 9 points and 3 assists in 15 minutes.
The Bottom Line: The USA are just a win away from taking a third consecutive Olympic gold medal. One thing is for sure: they will face a team they've already played in this tournament in the shape of Australia or Serbia, both of which pushed them to the limit in the Group Phase.