U.S. men overcome slow start, beat Spain to advance to semis

Posted at 12:04 AM, Aug 03, 2021


The United States men's basketball team has largely underwhelmed since arriving in Tokyo. They lost their first Olympic contest since 2004 against France, and their play against an inferior Czech squad was at times erratic despite ultimately winning the tilt by a 35-point margin.

Consistency has been Team USA's Achilles heel throughout these Olympics, and that trend continued once more in their quarterfinal matchup against Spain. Luckily, they still managed to pull out the massive victory against one of the top men's teams competing in Tokyo.

Spain's Ricky Rubio was close to unguardable in the first quarter, finishing the game's first 10 minutes with 13 points to help orchestrate an 11-2 run to close out the opening stanza. Spain's defense began to impose its will on the U.S. from there, suffocating the Americans for much of the second quarter thanks to some strong play from Willy Hernangomez, who was a menace in the paint throughout the contest.

Kevin Durant and company were lucky to enter halftime with the game knotted up at 43. After making just 38 percent of their shots through the game's first 20 minutes, a similar shooting efficiency in the second half would have been disastrous to their hopes at winning a fourth consecutive gold medal.

Whatever was said in the locker room during halftime clearly had the Americans refocused for the game's renewal. The U.S. outscored Spain 26-20 in the third quarter thanks largely to some improved shooting number from beyond the arc.

Rubio continued to carry Spain in the second half, but his contributions alone (38 points, four rebounds) weren't enough to guide his countrymen past the awakened U.S. squad.

It seemed unlikely early on, but Team USA pulled out the 95-81 victory to move on to the men's basketball semifinals, guaranteeing a chance to play for a medal.

The U.S. will next take on the winner of Australia vs. Argentina, which is set to tip off at 8 a.m. ET Tuesday morning.