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U.S. cagers back to top of the world, winning Olympic gold with clean sheet
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19:16, August 24, 2008

The United States lived up to the expectation to put them back on the top of the world when they edged off world champions Spain 118-107 in the final of the men's basketball competitions at the Beijing Olympics on Sunday.


Players of the U.S. attends the awarding ceremony of Beijing 2008 Olympic Games men's basketball event at Olympic Basketball Gymnasium in Beijing, China, Aug. 24, 2008. The U.S. beat Spain 118-107 and won the gold medal of the event.(Xinhua Photo)

Kobe Bryant, the Most Valuable Player of the National Basketball Association, played a key role as he scored 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter when the whole world witnessed the redemption of the U.S. basketball.

After finishing with a bronze at the 2004 Athens Games and failure of twice attempts at the world championships in 2002 and 2006, the U.S. averaged 27.9-point winning margin to keep an unbeaten run of 8-0.


Players of the U.S. attend the awarding ceremony of Beijing 2008 Olympic Games men's basketball event at Olympic Basketball Gymnasium in Beijing, China, Aug. 24, 2008. The U.S. beat Spain 118-107 and won the gold medal of the event.(Xinhua Photo)

They defeated Spain twice, the defending champions Argentina and world runners-up Greece on their way to the crown to perfect their success.

The final scoreline was the most in the tournament and the first game both sides scored over 100 points as Spain adopted complete different approach to the game after losing 119-82 to the U.S. in the preliminary play.

They never let the Americans pull away and had a couple of chances to level the game when they cut the lead down to four points several times down the stretch.


Kobe Bryant of the U.S. reacts on the awarding ceremony of Beijing 2008 Olympic Games men's basketball event at Olympic Basketball Gymnasium in Beijing, China, Aug. 24, 2008. The U.S. beat Spain 118-107 and won the gold medal of the event. (Xinhua Photo)

"We had a game plan and they countered on it. Every possession counted," LeBrone James said. "I'm happy that the U.S. basketball is back to the top of the world."

"Spain were incredible. They are world champions, but we came up for a big win. Everybody said the NBA players are selfish, arrogant, individual. Today we proved we can play together," Bryant said.

Dwyane Wade, U.S. leading scorer, had the game-high 27 points when the team shot amazing 70 percent (26-37) in the field and 46 percent on three-pointer (13-28).

Rudy Fernandez led the brave Spaniards with 22 points and Pau Gasol added 21 points and six rebounds, with six players scoring double-digit numbers.

"This feels great. We haven't won it in eight years. A lot of people doubted that NBA stars could play together," Wade said.

"I'm so excited. We all are. We've been waiting for this for years and it's finally here," said Bryant, who dragged forward the chest of his jersey to show the "U.S.A." words on it when the team celebrated the victory after the final whistle.

"It is more important and more special than any championship that any of us will ever win," he added.

Wade, who had 12 points in the first 10 minutes, missed an opportunity to make it a 40-point first quarter when he stole for the second time for an apparent dunk. But he lost the control of the ball on his way to the basket when the clock clicked off.

Both teams shot their perfect match as the scoreline in the first half was 69-61 to the U.S.. The U.S. bettered off with eight 3-pointers, three from Wade, when each team shot above 60 percent in the field with identical 14 baskets.

Juan Navarro scored eight points when the Spaniards never fell behind to the fast-stepped Americans in the third quarter, which ended by 91-82.

Fernandez, who will play for the Portland Trail Blazers next season, rested for most of the third quarter due to foul trouble and came up in the fourth period to explode with a 7-0 run as Spain cut the lead short on 91-89.

Bryant answered by initiating a 12-3 run to extend the leading margin to 11 points by 103-92. Fernandez kept Spain into the game one-handedly in the next four minutes as he made another 3-pointer and a three-point dunking play on the head of U.S. center Dwight Howard.

Gasol scored twice inside paint to make it 104-99 with 3:30 minutes to go, but Spain received a big blow when Fernandez was fouled out and gave Bryant a bonus chance of four-point play.

Navarro erupted as a substitute and made a running layup before Carlos Jimenze's 3-pointer to close it again on 108-104 with 2:24 minutes to go.

Wade's quick 3-pointer silenced Spain's supporters in the over-paced Wukesong Indoor Stadium and Bryant drilled in a running basket on 113-105 with 1:11 minutes left. Jimenez missed a 3-pointer on the following possession and the game was out of the touch for Spain.

"I'm proud of my players. They never gave up. We had a chance to win even in the last three minutes," Spain coach Aito Garcia said. "Today we saw a stronger American team with more willingness to win, which we haven't seen for long time."

"I feel good with the game and my team though we lost it. We fought hard all the way to the final minute. D-Wade had some big plays and Kobe's too. The U.S. improved a lot. They wanted to be back to the top and they did it," Gasol said.

Source: Xinhua

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