US outlasts Spain to make Olympic basketball semis
The United States kept its basketball gold medal dreams alive Tuesday by grinding past world champion Spain and into the semifinals.
Sharp-shooting Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant poured in 29 points and four assists while Boston’s Jayson Tatum chipped in 13 in a battle between the world’s top two teams, nullifying Ricky Rubio’s 38-point spree for Spain.
The three-time defending champions will now face either a Patty Mills-led Australia or a dangerous Argentina to decide who plays the final on Saturday.
Gregg Popovich’s US team came to Tokyo with two shock defeats in exhibition games and then crashed in their opener against eventual Group A winners France — their first defeat at an Olympics since 2004.
But they have steadied the ship and came through a see-sawing clash with Spain after knuckling down in the final stretch to go 13-0 against its rivals in Olympic competition.
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Rubio drilled 13 points to put Spain into a 21-19 lead after the first term as the US gave up a seven-point advantage.
They traded the lead in a back-and-forth second quarter before Spain went on an 10-point run to move 39-29 clear.
But inspired by Durant, the US fought back and two points inside the paint from Devin Booker with seconds to go drew them level 43-43 at the break.
The tide looked to turn in the third term with the US building a 22-6 streak to take charge before Spain regained ground to go into the final quarter just six points adrift at 69-63.
With their reputation at stake — having medaled in all 18 Olympics they have competed at, winning 15 gold, a silver and two bronze — the Americans put their heads down to ensure they stayed in the tournament.
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