It’s late. Or early. Doesn’t matter, I’m live-blogging the Redeem Team’s chance to return to glory and Olympic gold. I think they’ve got a good shot.
Stay up with me here and jump down. Here’s the online feed.
If you’re unaware, there was a Nike-commissioned anthem for this team selected by Just Blaze.
But this song leaked yesterday. And it’s the real unofficial anthem.
Look, I watched and blogged that first game these two teams played earlier in these Olympics: there wasn’t a bigger mismatch on a court since the Celtics vaporized the Lakers in Game 6 in June. Everything Spain tried to do early was futile, thwarted by sluggishness or the swarming U.S. defense. And there’s not much to suggest this game will be much different.
It’s 2:13 Eastern, and they’re playing Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights” in Beijing. I love humanity.
Less than fourteen minutes on the countdown clock.
We’re in lineups now; Kobe gets a huge roar, approached only by LeBron.
Big news of the night/day: Jose Calderon, who was good at times in the first game, is not expected to play and will be replaced by either Raul Lopez or Ricky Rubio. Either way, that’s not a promising thing for a Spanish team that got thumped by 37 in their first go against the U.S.
This feed gets trippier and trippier; I feel like I’m hearing “The Star-Spangled Banner” from Mars.
Spain’s national anthem gets a solid B. It’s called “La Marcha Real,” or “The Royal March.”
Ooh, The Ting Tings! Nothing says Olympic basketball like The Ting Tings.
Spain’s coach, Aito Garcia, still looks like Willem Dafoe.
The U.S. hasn’t had a game closer than 20; to Spain’s credit, every one of their was decided by double digits. That does include the blowout loss to the U.S., though.
Very cool ambiance minus the commentary on the online feed. Claps, chants, and the PA’s music. I like this a lot.
Tip to the U.S. They work it inside to Dwight Howard, who makes it 2-0.
Good move by Pau Gasol to draw a foul on LeBron; he puts it in and converts the and-one; Spain leads, 3-2.
Howard gets fouled, swishes the first, misses the second badly.
Nice isolation and attempted screen by Spain and they get a foul on Kobe. That’s the U.S.’s two best defensive players with early fouls.
Good defense and a great fast-break by Spain; this is a different team from the preliminary round game, and they’ve been very sharp early.
Jason Kidd abuses someone. He also drives and scores on the court. (Veracity of first statement unclear.)
Spain’s playing a sort of hybrid 2-1-2, I think. Carmelo Anthony hits a three over it, but he’s matched by Spanish captain Carlos Jiminez at the other end. It’s 10-9, Spain.
Deron Williams and Dwyane Wade in for LeBron and Kobe as Spain extends the lead to 13-9 at the free throw line.
Trading buckets: Ricky Rubio gets the much prettier one for Spain, a runner-to-finger-roll move that splits the American defense.
Invasion of the Chris: CB4 and CP3 enter the game for Howard and Kidd. Hopefully, Paul and Williams can move to cover the fleet Spanish guard who’ve been very good so far.
You know who else has been good? Gasol, who puts in two.
And another two by Spain gets answered by an outlet to Paul, who darts downcourt and just works Rubio for a lay-up and the and-one.
Graphic: Spain’s shooting north of 75% so far; the U.S. is hitting at a paltry 60% clip.
Chris Paul, brilliant again. Makes it a three-point play, leads the U.S. with six points so far. Gasol leads all scorers with seven.
Chris Bosh hits two free throws, ties game at 22.
Great hustle by Spain on a sloppy possession; they can’t get a shot off, though.
Tayshaun Prince is in, replacing Carmelo. Early entry for him.
U.S. presses. It pays off with a Wade dunk. They lead by four.
Jorge Garbajosa drains a triple with a hand in his face.
Spain’s definitely back in a 2-3; I’m not sure what the defense was early, but this is their trademark zone, and the U.S. is hesitant against it, but not forcing jumpers.
Bosh follows a missed Wade free throw with a tip-in he had no right to; manful effort there.
Willem Dafoe, the hobgoblin of the Olympic Games, at least has his team playing with some consistency here. This game looks like a close, classic one.
Marc Gasol (hereafter Marc) hits, drawing Spain to 33-29. Look at stats here.
Wade pushes the lead to a game-high of seven for the U.S. with a three, then gets a steal that would have been another easy two had he remembered to take the ball with him as he went up.
At the end of one, it’s the United States 38, Spain 31.
The starting five (Kobe, LeBron, Melo, Howard, and Kidd) return to begin the second.
On their first defensive possession, Howard gets Marc to foul; on the offensive one, Kobe rings up a three. Lead’s up to 10.
Gasol, shooting two alone, thanks to a foul on Howard that falls under the internation obstruction rule.
Kobe, disregarding gravity, scores two in flashy fashion, gets Spanish towels smacking the floor in frustration. It’s a 5-0 Kobe run to start the second, and there’s some swagger to the U.S.’s play.
Except Marc, not blocked out, sneaks in behind defenders for an easy putback.
Another three by the U.S., this one Melo’s.
The “live” feed is lagging behind the scoring update; I knew Spain would make it 46-36 thanks to that page. Don’t ask me why it’s working like that; trust me that it is.
Kidd gets whistled for what looked like an all-ball strip. (I just need to stop writing about Jason Kidd at this hour of the night.)
Wade, back in.
Gorgeous half-court alley to an atheltic reverse oop by Kobe. Not a dunk, but twice as nice, stylistically.
Dwight Howard mistakes Spanish player for Dominique Dawes; mauls him. He’ll sit and Bosh comes in for him.
Sequence of alternating thefts ends in LeBron showing no respect for what mortals should do on an acrobatic lay-up; he front-rims the free throw, though.
The U.S.’s favorite scene from the tournament: another steal to a Wade dunk. It’s 52-42.
Some nice montages on the online feed; it’s well put together.
Wade does something filthy on a crossover and hits a three; the lead is at 13, the largest margin of the game. Then, after a Spain bucket, Wade drives against three people and kicks out while plummeting and getting spun to an open Melo, who drains a three.
The 14-point lead gets cut to nine by a two, then a three, and the “Ole, ole, ole!” chants can be heard.
Prince slithers in behind three Spanish defenders and tips in. Then he eats for the first time since 1997. I may be making the second part up.
I can hear fans heckling the refs. That’s awesome. (The hecklers aren’t inspiring, but the cool factor remains.)
Wade, a set shot three. He and Melo are firing away and hitting, but there’s a reliance on threes and a timidity on offense that Coach K can’t like.
Especially as the Spaniards answer threes with their own trifectas and points at the line with points in the paint, keeping the lead at nine.
This is an uneasy lead.
Wonderful play by Spain, hitting a cutter and getting a two off a mismatch. Then they get two at the line from Lopez, and the lead is seven, and then six after a one-of-two trip to the line by Juan Carlos Navarro.
Paul, at the line. Easy two points there.
Wade again finds himself with the last shot and two seconds in which to take it; this one’s a back-rim three.
At the half, it’s the United States 69, Spain 61.
It’s been a physical, fast-paced game; Spain’s shot 20 FTs, and the U.S. 21, and each country’s missed just three. And for reference, the first game was 61-45 at the half in favor of the Americans.
Each team’s shooting over 60%, the U.S. hitting 22 of 34 from the field and knocking down eight threes, with Spain compensating for ten turnovers with five threes of their own, three from Rudy Fernandez, who leads all Earthlings with 13 points.
Dwyane Wade’s been even more otherworldly than usual to this point, with 21 points, four steals, and the nascent ability to just jump and tip a pass to himself on defense whenever he so chooses to his credit tonight. He’s made up with his quickness and awareness what the U.S. team as a whole is lacking as a defense, as they’re slow on switches and quick to foul. Telling: the team that leads the Olympics with four blocks a game has none at the half.
For Spain, though, more of the same won’t be enough. There’s a similar lack of discipline on offense for them, and they’ve been a bit too careless with the ball to take advantage of a special shooting night; I’ve got a feeling that Spain’s going to get hot at some point in this half if they can string four or five possessions without turnovers together.
But, for this nit-picking, it’s really been a good half of basketball. Hope for more.
Also, as NBC’s commentary online points out: Rubio has two fouls, and Reyes and Fernandez have three. It would be a good idea to avoid fouling early, because losing their perimeter players would be disastrous with Wade on another plane.
And Spain comes back out and hits a tough 14-footer. The touch hasn’t deserted them.
Kobe, bad shot, airball. No foul, though he was fishing.
Dwight Howard is a man: rebound, fighting two defenders, putback.
But Spain answers; neither team can put a run together.
Howard whacked Gasol in the face while running back on D; Gasol gives him a little chirping after he gets fouled on the other end.
Howard misses both, but Melo saves him with a schoolyard tip. Misses his foul shot, though.
U.S. has as many FT misses in the second half as the first. And we’re not even at the seven-minute mark in the third.
Jiminez hits a runner, and the lead is four; Howard slams two home, lead is six; Navarro hits a floating runner and it’s back to four.
Coach K’s letting f-bombs fly in his talk in a timeout; I can’t understand Dafoe/Garcia, but I think he said something about communicating on defense.
Finally, a U.S. block, and it turns into two as Melo gets out on the break and is rewarded. The lead’s momentarily six, and then bad rebounding by the U.S. allows Spain to get a putback and cut it again.
The jumpers are not falling for the U.S.
Sweet pass by Kobe to a circus lay-up by LeBron, but style doesn’t count on the scoreboard; Marc’s simple roll to a two and LeBron’s elementary lay-up are worth just as much. (LeBron misses another free throw in that stretch; U.S. is 0-fer for the half from the stripe.)
Spain goes from man-to-man to zone; Chris Bosh gets fouled and hits two free throws. Because when you need to stop an ice-cold streak at the line, you think Chris Bosh.
Wade, quiet this half, gets his trapeze act derailed. He’ll shoot two.
Makes the first. Misses the second; U.S. gets it back after a missed Spain lay-up, and Wade puts a defender on the floor with a spinning feint, hits the fadeaway, and dons the cape again. The lead is ten and Wade’s playing like it’s the 2006 NBA Finals again.
Navarro breaks down the defense like Jeff Portnoy breaks wind; ugly lack of switching there.
Alley-oop for Spain after exchange of wasted possessions. It’s 88-80.
Melo would like to remind that he can shoot when Spain stops switching: a three makes the lead 91-80, largest of the half.
Juan Carlos Navarro has clearly been reading Ricky Rubio’s press clippings: another absurdly difficult floater goes in, and it’s back to a nine-point lead as the quarter ends.
Heading into the last quarter of Olympic basketball for four years, it’s the United States 91, Spain 82, and me a few hours behind on sleep.
On the floor for the U.S.: Williams, Bryant, James, Anthony, Bosh. A big “small” lineup.
Gasol whittles the lead to seven with a putback.
Wow: fantastic pass by Fernandez to a cutting Gasol. That was pretty. And then a three off a turnover for Rudy; a Portland fan just got his wings.
Suddenly, it’s 91-89, and the U.S. hasn’t scored in the fourth.
Kobe doesn’t want Navarro thinking too highly of himself; pretty hanging runner brings the lead back to four. On the other end, LeBron picks up his fourth foul.
D-Will with a three that was going in from the moment he set his feet, makes the lead seven.
Kobe saves a potential steal with the reflexes of a jaguar, then slices inside and feeds Howard for two. A couple of good athletic plays there.
Rudy Fernandez, for three: it’s going in, I needn’t say a word.
Kobe responds, flexes. Prizefighters throwing punches here.
If this is Spain now, without one of its better players, what kind of possum were they playing before?
LeBron hustles, turns a loose ball into two, eventually.
Rudy Fernandez is making himself a lot of money: he drives by Howard and slams, gets fouled, makes it. Chris Paul would like to congratulate him on joining the club.
Good D by the U.S. to force a bad shot, then good work to get it in to Howard, who is hacked, bricks his first shot, and puts the second in true.
Spain’s got their best lineup in: the Gasols, Jiminez, Navarro, and Fernandez.
Gasol hits two after a foul by Howard, then, after a Paul miss from the corner, gets a clear shot after Howard gets knocked to the ground and cuts the lead to five.
Kobe. Hand in face. Dagger. He fouls out Fernandez and converts the four-point play.
This is why he’s on the Olympic team.
Navarro’s submitting this game tape to Cirque du Soleil; another great runner makes it a seven-point margin.
Jiminez, from the deep wing, makes it four. Kobe’s dagger, blunted.
Dwyane Wade uses a diamond dagger. It cuts deep. U.S. up by seven, Spain calls a timeout.
What a game this has been; great shooting in both halves, long stretches of great play with shorter spates of sloppiness; great performances by Wade, Kobe, Fernandez, and Navarro.
And, yes, “The Final Countdown” is playing.
Navarro can’t hit, but he can get hit. He makes the first; the second bounces to the corner and Rubio outhustles Paul and saves it off him for Spain.
But Jiminez can’t hit the open three; it’s the U.S. by six with a little over a minute to play.
Kobe makes it eight with just under a minute.
Spain needs to foul, but they get the wrong guy; Paul’s a great FT shooter, and perfect on the night, even though he was 13-of-20 for the tournament coming in. He makes it 115-105.
Marc Gasol, cleaning up for Pau. It’s eight again, but I doubt it gets slimmer than that.
Paul breaks the press, dances around, wastes five seconds before he gets fouled again.
Rubio gets called for a tech; U.S. will shoot four free throws and, essentially, the game’s on ice and the champagne can come off of it.
Kobe hits the first two. Spain calls timeout; the U.S. breaks the huddle beaming.
Paul misses his first, and Coach K sends Carlos Boozer in to earn his gold medal; Paul makes the second, Spain can’t hit at the other end, and time will expire.
The final: the United States 118, Spain 107.
The moshing at center court is sloppy, but the Redeem Team has reclaimed gold.
It’s a bright night for the players, Coach Mike Kryrzewski, assistants Jim Boeheim and Mike D’Antoni, and, especially Jerry Colangelo, the architect of this team. They did their jobs as well as could be expected, and crafted, piloted, and played for a team that took the best American players could offer and molded it masterfully to the international game. A great effort by Team USA over three years pays off tonight.
And a great game by both teams shows how good international basketball has become; were it not for some early sloppiness, Spain could well have won this game, and there has not been a higher-level game on the international stage in some time.
The strains of “Born In the USA” will take me out for the night. Thanks for staying up, thanks for following this Redeem Team with me, and, of course, thanks for reading.
(Okay, really, Lupe Fiasco’s “Superstar” is much more appropriate now. Congratulations to all involved.)