Tokyo 2020 | Basketball
The team falls against the United States and says goodbye to the medals after a duel in which they came to win by ten points
There was no miracle. Spain did not win, eliminated from the Games against the United States. The selection yielded again before his impassable wall and that this time he returned to the Dream Team in a game full of alternatives that came to be winning up to ten points before the break. He crashed before an immense Kevin Durant, author of 29 points, which rendered the historic performance of Ricky Rubio (38) sterile. The point guard, at times too lonely, succumbed in his attempt to face the Americans. Defeat that definitively removes the medals and that leaves Pau Gasol without his dreamed end. Both he and his brother Marc have confirmed their goodbye to the national team.
Spain was reaching its limits, because in these two decades of continuous joys, it had only beaten the United States in the fight for fifth place in the 2002 World Cup. Duel without history that only counted for statistics. For practical purposes, as Pau Gasol recognized in the previous one, beating the Americans was the last peak. The penultimate, actually, because Olympic glory is also resisting and to reach it in Tokyo it was necessary to exceed two. First beat the United States in the quarterfinals to think about higher levels. The most difficult yet.
It was a challenge at the level of this legendary team that had already been able to win two World Cups and be part of the Dream Team in two Olympic finals. Memories to leave complexes behind and think big. Why not? The first thing Scariolo did in the day and a half they had off was to create in the minds of his players the feeling that it was possible. That the Americans were not invincible. And this time it was true.
It was proved by Spain, who after a few timid first minutes, brazenly launched into history. At the leadership of Ricky, the only one who looked at the ring in that hesitant start (13 points for him in the first quarter) were raised by Llull and Claver, and with them the national team began to truly believe, which finished the first ten minutes ahead on the scoreboard (21-19).
It was America, a Durant monologue, surrounded by the quality sparks of his peers. Many of them All Star players. A team that lacked stars like LeBron James or James Harden, but was full of talent. Chacho did not care, who has never been scared by anything. The point guard came out ready to attract attention for the first time in these Games in which he had been gray. Strangely flat. An unknown version that mutated before the Americans.
The canary shone as usual, exhibiting joy and imagination on the track. Two of his triples as soon as the second quarter started pushed Spain forward and charged the batteries of their teammates. Especially a Willy who suddenly looked like the reincarnation of Shaquille O’Neal. Or Felipe Reyes. A giant. Called to play a residual role in Tokyo, the center has been gaining the confidence of Scariolo to become the most effective center. Against the United States, he was key with some incredible minutes. The best ever from Madrid with the national team. He added six points and captured six rebounds that helped make a 16-3 run that put the team in orbit (39-29, min. 17).
It was a symphony Spain, tuned in defense – up to three blocks put the largest of the Hernangómez and another one with an immense Garuba behind – and with Sergio Rodríguez leading the attack with success. A total wiggle that ended with Durant’s return to the track.
The forward of the Nets, a true benchmark of the team, lowered the spirits of the national bench and managed to wipe the difference before heading into the locker room (43-43).
Strange sensation at rest
Spain went into halftime with a strange feeling, a mixture of joy at having done things well and disappointment at having missed such a remarkable advantage. A treasure that had cost him a lot to find and that he allowed himself to be snatched in a very short time.
Upon returning from the locker room, the team returned to its timorous version, again with Ricky as the only bastion. But this time, literally (14 in a row for him). The Catalan base was the only offensive support during the first seven minutes of the quarter in which Durant abused Spain. The forward led the attack by the United States, which after a first half full of errors on the perimeter, added five triples in the third period. Three of them carried the stamp of the Nets player, who led a set that put Spain on the ropes (49-65, min. 26).
Willy then came out, again to the rescue and already ahead in the rotation of Pau Gasol. His mere presence on the field encouraged the rest and scared the Americans, who forgot the area. Spain recovered a bit, with two triples from Ricky and one more from Chacho, to which was added a Garuba basket that put the team at four (65-69, min. 31).
He was gone and Scariolo’s team had returned. Always confident until his strength was exhausted. A 12-1 run, with Lillard and Tatum taking the lead at the break from Durant, ended the national resistance (66-81, min. 33).
Despite the uphill battle, Spain continued to believe and seek victory. Hold on to a leader who is here to stay. A great Ricky who finished with 38 points in one of the best games of his career. Also one of the saddest.
The point guard lacked a little more help, especially near the basket, where the Gasols did not show their best version. Gray both. Orphaned Spain and defeated, again off the Olympic podium for the first time since Athens 2004.