Pau Gasol, Sergio Rodriguez

Spain gets another shot at Gold after dominant second half vs. Russia

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There were questions about how good Spain could be because they had not been all that impressive in the Olympic tune-up games, then in group play they lost to Russia and Brazil (although the Brazil loss was more of a laydown).

Then in the first half against Russia Spain played down to its worst, scoring just 20 points in the first 20 minutes.

But the second half showed why Spain is considered the second best team in the Olympics — they knocked down threes on their way to a 47-point half an a 67-59 win over Russia. With the victory Spain advances to the gold medal game (likely against the USA) while Russia will play for the bronze.

Spain struggled to score in the first half against a pressure man-to-man defense from Russia in — Pau Gasol went scoreless for the quarter and Spain as a team scored just 20 first half points. Russia did a fantastic job cutting off drives, forcing Spain to take perimeter jumpers, then recovering to contest. Spain was 2-of-11 from three in the first half and shot shot just 21 percent overall in the first 20 minutes. It was 31-20 Russia at the break.

Gasol said after the game the Spanish came out tight because they so badly wanted to return to the gold medal game. But to get there they just had to get back to their game.

They did. In the third quarter Spain found the stroke, they were 5-of-8 from three, which opened up other looks, and pretty soon Spain had put up 26 in the quarter, outscoring Russia by 11 and making it a tie game heading to the fourth, 46-46.

And Spain just kept right on rolling — Marc Gasol got in the act scoring inside. Rudy Fernandez and Jose Calderon were making plays. Russia just seemed to have no answer as their leading scorer in the tournament, Andrei Kirilenko shot just 2-of-12 from the field and was not a factor. Sasha Kaun led Russia with 14 but the Russians could just make a sustained run late. Spain just kept pressuring and making plays.

Pau Gasol finished with 16 points and 11 boards for Spain while Calderon had 14.

Next up is the gold medal game for Spain — likely a rematch of the 2008 game where the USA needed a fourth quarter comeback sparked by Kobe Bryant. This time Spain will need 40 minutes played like the second half of the Russia game — this is an American team that can make big runs… then run away and hide. Spain will need a better effort.

But they are in the game, and that’s all you can ask.

Watch Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant trade shots Saturday night

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Kevin Durant won the one-on-one battle — he dropped 40 points on the Golden State Warriors, while Stephen Curry had “just” 26 and needed 26 shots to get there (but did add 10 assists).

But the Warriors built up a lead thanks to their depth and were able to withstand a late Thunder run to get the win.

Enjoy watching Curry and Durant putting on a show Saturday night in the Bay Area.

Nerlens Noel uses length for ridiculous reverse jam

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Nerlens Noel‘s 7’4″ wingspan can come in handy at times.

Such as when driving on Brook Lopez, and getting forced under the basket, he can just reach around the Nets’ center for the impressive dunk.

Noel finished the game with 18 points, Jahlil Okafor had 22, and the Sixers picked up a win against the Nets 103-98.

Kobe Bryant’s 25 points not enough to upset Spurs

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs have watched helplessly as Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant has tormented them for the better part of the past two decades.

Bryant did so again in his final appearance in San Antonio, but the Spurs were able to enjoy this one.

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26 points and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a throwback performance by Bryant to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 106-102 on Saturday night to remain unbeaten at home.

“I thought it was great,” San Antonio point guard Tony Parker said. “It was a great game, fans were into it. It felt a little bit like the old days in the playoffs, Spurs and the Lakers.”

Kawhi Leonard added 20 points and 13 rebounds to help the Spurs win their 28th straight home game to open the season. The Spurs’ 37th straight home victory dating back to last season was surprisingly difficult.

Bryant had 16 of his 25 points in the third quarter, going 3 for 6 on 3-pointers in guiding the Lakers to an 81-79 lead entering the fourth.

“I watched him growing up,” said Lakers guard and San Antonio native Jordan Clarkson, who finished with 21 points and four assists. “I watched him kill the Spurs.”

San Antonio has trailed for only two minutes in the fourth quarter at home this season, but the Lakers led for all but 23 seconds in the opening seven minutes of the period.

Bryant finished 9 for 28 from the field, but was 7 for 18 in a dynamic second half that electrified a pro-Bryant crowd.

“It’s like watching Michael (Jordan),” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “I was just watching. It was great. It was great. We made some mistakes. He took advantage of it. He’s fantastic.”

After rising to drain a 3-pointer with Leonard squarely in his face contesting the attempt, Bryant turned to an injured Tim Duncan on the bench and shrugged his shoulders.

“He was like, `No way,’ and I was like `Dude,’ ” Bryant said. “What could I do? I miss the easy ones and make some B.S. like that. I don’t even know what to tell you. It was Tim’s version of a yell, so it was a strong whisper.”

The Lakers trailed 101-99 lead after trading 3-pointers following Bryant’s improbable shot, but the Spurs’ were able to hold Los Angeles to just three points in the final 2 minutes.

“Missed defensive assignments,” said Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell, who had 12 points. “They executed their offense to perfection. We were young and that’s an excuse I could give you.”

Bryant had a sore right shoulder, but he was not about to miss one last game against his fiercest rivals. He has faced the Spurs 90 times in the regular season and postseason, his most against any opponent.

TIP-INS

Lakers: The Spurs honored Bryant with a 3-minute video. The Spurs’ Big Three of Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all paid tribute to Bryant’s competitiveness along with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. Bryant walked over to the Spurs’ bench prior to tipoff and hugged Popovich, sharing a few words with San Antonio’s longtime coach.

Spurs: San Antonio’s 12-game lead in the Southwest is the largest ever since the division was formed in 2004-2005. … In addition to Duncan and Ginobili, the Spurs were also without Matt Bonner. The reserve forward suffered a left calf strain Friday against Dallas, which was just his 20th game of the season. … Pop star Selena Gomez sat courtside, wearing a Tony Parker jersey.

 

Spurs honor Kobe Bryant in his last game in San Antonio (VIDEO)

LOS ANGELES - MARCH 30:  Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers stands next to Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs on March 30, 2006 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  The Spurs won 96-85. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Kobe Bryant farewell tour has gone all around the NBA, but some stops are more emotional than others. His final trip to San Antonio certainly qualifies — the Spurs and Lakers have played each other in the playoffs eight times in his career, including twice in the Western Conference Finals (the Lakers won both times). The only player who has rivaled Bryant’s longevity is Tim Duncan, and the Lakers and Spurs were the two most dominant teams of the 2000s, winning nine of the 12 championships from 1999 to 2010 between them.

So, of course, the Spurs had an elaborate tribute video planned for Bryant. The video ran two and a half minutes and featured narration from Gregg Popovich, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Watch it below: