Kurt Helin

Serbia defends well, blows out Australia to set up rematch with USA — this time for gold

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Serbia was ready for the stage — it played its best game of the Olympics.

Australia was not. Whether the moment was too big, or they were looking past a team they beat in pool play to a possible rematch with the USA, the Boomers came out flat-footed. And they couldn’t shoot — they hit just 4-of-31 from three.

The result was a blowout from the opening tip that Serbia won 87-61 to advance to the gold medal game and set up their own rematch with the Americans. Australia will go for its first-ever basketball medal Sunday in the bronze medal game against Spain.

Point guard Milos Teodosic led Serbia from the start — he scored six of their first 12 points and finished the night with 22 points and five assists. He is going to be a handful for the USA on Sunday, Teodosic gave them fits in group play. Stefan Markovic added 14 points for Serbia, while Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets had 11 rebounds.

For those that don’t remember, Serbia was the USA’s toughest game in group play — the Americans won by three, ut Sacramento-bound Bogdan Bogdanovic got a wide-open three to tie the game at the buzzer, but it rimmed out. The USA raced out to a 9-0 lead in that game and eventually led 23-5, but then got incredibly sloppy on both ends. Serbia outscored the USA 86-71 the rest of the way.

Serbia is playing better than they did in that game, and they are used to the big stage — they played the USA in the 2014 World Championship finals.

If the USA plays with the defensive focus they had against Spain they should be fine, but let up at all and Serbia can make them pay. In Silver.

Sing along with Russell Westbrook — he will do what he wants

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Russell Westbrook posted this to Twitter, a little Lil Uzi Vert “Now I Do What I Want” sing along.

Maybe it’s his Friday mood.

Or, is it a little message to that guy headed West….

Kevin Durant passed LeBron James for second on USA’s Olympic scoring list

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During the group play stage of the Rio Olympics, Carmelo Anthony passed LeBron James to become the all-time leading Olympics scorer in USA history.

LeBron, take another step back.

While racking up his 14 points against Spain in the semi-final game on Friday, Kevin Durant slid past LeBron into second place on the list. Durant leapfrogged LeBron in the first quarter.

Durant has averaged 19.1 points a game over his Olympic career. While Anthony is at the top of the USA list, Durant could pass him if KD plays in Tokyo in 2020. Then again, LeBron is talking about a possible USA swan song and he could retake his lead.

As long as the USA is winning gold, it’s all good. There’s no Cavaliers/Warriors thing when the USA is on the chest.

DeAndre Jordan blocks, slams: check out highlights of USA’s win over Spain

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For all the talk of the trouble with Team USA it comes down to this: One more win and they get gold.

The USA played their best game of the Rio Olympics — finally showing some grit and more steady defense — in beating Spain 82-76 to advance to Sunday’s Gold Medal game.

You can see the key to the USA’s win in these highlights below: Klay Thompson was draining threes (22 points 4-of-8 from deep) and DeAndre Jordan just flat out owned the paint on both ends.

Defense, DeAndre Jordan power USA into gold medal game with gritty 82-76 win over Spain

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In Rio, the USA had been trying to make the pretty play and showing very little grit. If the game got ugly, so did the Americans.

That changed in the biggest game of the Olympics — just in time to keep the USA on a gold medal track.

Finally, the USA’s defense showed up in a big game in Rio — Spain shot just 39 percent (they were 8-of-26 from three and missed a lot of clean looks). Just as big, going up against Pau Gasol the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan owned the paint — 9 points, 16 rebounds, four blocks (I think they shorted him one) and he altered a few others shots.

All of that led to an 82-76 USA win that propels them into the gold medal game Sunday against the winner of the Australia/Serbia game (two teams the USA has already defeated, and did so with lesser efforts than they gave against Spain).

“We were just able to fight through it,” Jordan said in his postgame televised interview about how the USA dealt with the Spain wanting to make this game ugly and gritty.”Klay (Thompson) got hot early, we needed a game like that from him. But then ultimately we just got stops and executed our offense.”

Klay Thompson had 22 points — hitting 4-of-8 from three — while Kevin Durant added 14 (on 13 shots ) and Kyrie Irving added 12. But it was the improved USA defense that was key, we had seen a little of that against Argentina and more against Spain.

“We really needed it,” Jordan said. “We’ve seen it in spurts throughout the tournament, but I felt tonight and the other night (against Argentina) were probably our best defensive games of the tournament and if we can put a full one together and win the championship.”

The game was not pretty, in part because of wildly inconsistent — and at times overbearing — FIBA officiating with bad calls hurting both teams at times. They called five first-half technicals, and both DeMarcus Cousins and Nikola Mirotic were in early foul trouble. Nothing makes you appreciate an NBA official like watching FIBA refs.

After two days hearing about his sore calf, Gasol didn’t look injured in the least in the first quarter, aggressively going right at DeMarcus Cousins and putting up 12 first quarter points. However, the USA had their best start of the Olympics overall, racing out to a 10 point lead with hot shooting from Thompson.

Spain chipped away at that in the second half, getting the lead down to two points. Spain was able to hang around during a start-and-stop half, with a lot of fouls that killed the flow. However, the USA was 6-14 from three led by a hot hand from Klay Thompson, who had 17 points, and the USA led 45-39.

It was a back-and-fourth third quarter, with the officials calling fewer fouls — although DeMarcus Cousins did foul out. The USA got the lead up to 11, then Spain pulled it back to a five-point game. The entire quarter was that. It was Gasol fighting inside and a few threes — one by Gasol — that kept the Spanish team hanging around. Still was 57-66 after three.

However, the USA bench — which has been a real strength in Rio — stretch that lead out to 15 early in the fourth.

Spain tried hard. They some threes, and went to a 2-3 zone defense, and they would make little runs but could never fully close the gap. This was the kind of game where the USA let Serbia and France get too close, but this game never really felt in doubt in the fourth.

Now the USA just needs one more effort like this to get gold.