The USA and Spain will square off once again for gold at the Olympic Games after they battled through from Friday’s semi-finals.
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Spain 65-59 Russia
A fourth quarter burst, and a haul of 16 points and 12 rebounds from Pau Gasol, helped Spain erase an 11-point halftime deficit and help them beat Russia 67-59 to secure a place in the final for a second consecutive Games.
Down 31-20 at halftime, the Spanish hit back in style as Pau Gasol and Sergio Lliul fuelled a 14-2 run early in the fourth quarter that finished off the Russians, who now have to regroup for the bronze medal game on Sunday.
“They were ahead of us for 20 minutes,” said Spain coach Sergio Scariolo. “Our game can work if we have a strong perimeter. And our perimeter has been struggling. But at the end of the day, the personality of the players make them keep focused when we are down.
“So the credit goes to the players, who are capable to play their best in the most difficult moments and help the coach make it easier.”
Both teams combined to shoot 8-33 in the first quarter and they were separated only by a three-pointer from Vitaly Fridzon that had Russia 12-9 in front after 10 minutes.
Back-to-back three-pointers from Sergey Monya capped a 10-0 run that put the Russians as much as 27-14 ahead with 4:40 left in the second and with the lacklustre Spanish shooting only 21%, it was little surprise that they trailed 31-20 at halftime.
But they were a changed side after the interval.
Juan Carlos Navarro converted a three-pointer that tied the game at 46-46 at the end of the third period.
Russia were held scoreless for almost four minutes as Lluil and Jose Calderon ignited a decisive spell of seven unanswered points. And, with 3:42 left, Marc Gasol hit a free throw that pushed Spain 61-51 ahead.
It was their biggest lead and too much for Russia to overturn, with three missed foul shots from Andrei Kirilenko playing through a quad injury, proving costly as Russia’s offense sputtered to the end of the game.
Sasha Kaun had a team-high 14 points for Russia, who will play for bronze for the first time since the 1992 Games in Barcelona, when they face Argentina.
USA 109-83 Argentina
The USA will defend their Olympic men’s basketball title after LeBron James and Kevin Durant combined for 37 points in a 109-83 semifinal victory over Argentina.
USA will be favoured to take the prize for the 14th time since basketball made its Olympic debut at Berlin 1936.
They produced possibly their finest performance so far at London 2012, including a surge which saw their advantage grow from 47-40 at half-time to as much as 29 points in the final minute to tee up another clash with Spain.
“It’s a great feeling to go at it again,” said USA forward Carmelo Anthony. “It might be my last one so I have got to enjoy it. That’s the excitement to go after the gold medal. Anything less than this would have been unsatisfying. This is the match-up everyone wanted to see.”
Kobe Bryant and James combined for 23 of the USA’s first-half points but they found themselves tested for a prolonged spell by Argentina who responded to an early 12-0 run with nine unanswered points to cut their deficit to 18-15.
After USA threatened to pull clear again, Carlos Delfino converted two successive three-pointers from the corner to bring Argentina within three points midway through the second period, but they never came any closer than that.
Durant had a game-high 19 points, with James adding 18 as the USA remained unbeaten in their seven games in London.
The Spaniards now beckon.
“Spain are an unbelievable team,” said Durant. “They are well coached. Their big guys can do a lot, they can run, score and block shots.”
Manu Ginobili scored 18 points for Argentina.
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