USA men's basketball claims gold with dominating win over Serbia

Jay Busbee
Carmelo Anthony and Team USA celebrates after defeating Australia 98-88 Wednesday in Rio. (Getty)
Team USA exults in victory. (Getty)

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The men’s basketball gold medal game closed out the Rio Olympic Games with all the star power of an Avengers movie … and all the drama of the Avengers hanging out in a food court.

The United States dominated Serbia from every conceivable angle, winning 96-66 with a shutdown-defense, waterfall-offense performance that hearkened all the way back to the 1992 Dream Team. All the ragged play, all the narrow victories, all the not-yet-flirting-with-disaster-but-close games over the course of the Olympics that had led up to this moment: all forgotten in a flurry of breakaways, dunks, and Kevin Durant brilliance.

Earlier in the tournament, Serbia lost to the United States by just three points after a substantial late run. Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski appeared determined not to let Serbia even have a glimmer of hope, and Team USA began its inevitable pythonesque squeeze about halfway through the first quarter.

By halftime, the United States was up 52-29 thanks to a 40-15 run and a both-ends domination reminiscent of a kid playing his dad in NBA Live. Team USA spent the first half notching 17 fast break points (against 2 for Serbia) and 13 points off turnovers, along with a plus-15 rebound total.

That was about the point statistics stopped mattering. The medals don’t get any more golden if you win by 50 rather than 5. Krzyzewski cleared the bench, giving everyone right down to little-used Harrison Barnes some playing time, and allowed Carmelo Anthony to return to the game to set an Olympic record for rebounds.

Durant’s transformation from pool play to medal play was emblematic of the USA as a whole. Against Serbia in pool play, Durant had scored just 12 points on two-of-four shooting from the field. This time around, he drained 30 points, including an eight-point solo second-quarter stretch that keyed the decisive American run.

Krzyzewski, who has won three gold medals leading the American team, now hands the reins of Team USA over to San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich, another coaching legend. All doubts about the strength of Team USA are now swept away.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.