Team USA rode Kevin Durant to a 36-10 run as Team USA survives a stiff challenge from Spain in a 95-81 victory, ending Spain’s gold medal hopes for the fifth straight Olympics.
With Spain threatening to pull away in the second quarter, Durant kept the Americans afloat with a tough, contested three-pointer and a drive for a dunk just before halftime.
“It was just big to respond before halftime,” USA forward Jayson Tatum said. “It was a time not to get worried, but to raise our sense of urgency. Basketball is a game of runs. [Spain is] a good team. They’re going to make shots. It’s all about how you respond. … It was a dogfight. It was what we expected.”
Durant led Team USA with 29 points including a trio of threes in the first four minutes of the second half that helped turn a tied game into one that the Americans had full command of.
The U.S. led by 16 with 4:33 remaining in the third quarter, but Ricky Rubio wouldn’t go away quietly. A 38-point salvo from Ricky Rubio kept Spain within range at 69-63 heading into the fourth quarter.
Jrue Holiday finally landed the knockout blow with 2:20 remaining, hitting a three to extend the lead to 13 points.
“We feel absolutely great about the victory, knowing full well that there’s a lot of work to be done,” United States Coach Gregg Popovich said. “In these games, every team has people they depend on to come through. [Durant] certainly did.”
The Americans will be put to the test in Thursday’s semifinal, when USA will face the winner of Australia and Argentina.