A ruthless USA served up an exhilarating display as they swept aside Serbia 96-66 to claim a third straight Olympic men's basketball title and give their coach Mike Krzyzewski a golden send-off on the final day of action at Rio 2016.
After scrapping to a tense three-point win over Serbia in the group stage, the USA again struggled to break down their European opponents in the first quarter, as they ground out a 19-15 lead. However, they subsequently showed they were in no mood for another nail-biter, surging to a 52-29 half-time lead and then remaining in control for the remainder of the final. It was their 25th straight win at the Olympic Games, and their 15th basketball title in all.
Kevin Durant led the attack for the USA, contributing 30 points including 24 in a brilliant opening half, while DeMarcus Cousins showed himself to be a master of the boards, pulling down 15 rebounds.
The triumph capped a brilliant tenure as Team USA head coach for Krzyzewski, who stepped down having guided the Americans to three consecutive Olympic gold medals. Coach ‘K’ boasts a near perfect record of 88 wins and just one defeat (way back in 2006) in international competition.
The game was also the last for US captain Carmelo Anthony, the only American basketball player to appear at four editions of the Games. He described his third Olympic gold as “a special moment”, adding: “I've seen the worst and I've seen the best. I'm here today three gold medals later."
Reflecting on the match, USA guard Paul George added: “We played them already so we were familiar with the faces and familiar with their game. It was about taking the fight to them and I thought we did a great job of doing that tonight.”
"They played better than us," admitted Serbian centre Vladimir Simac. "We fought and gave it everything, playing for our people. I think we made them (proud). This is a golden silver medal.”
With the victory Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson joined one of basketball’s most exclusive clubs, becoming just the eighth and ninth players to win Olympic and FIBA world championship gold and an NBA title.
Spain pip Australia to bronze in last-gasp win
Earlier in the day Spain beat Australia 89-88 to win the bronze medal in the men's basketball and secure a third consecutive podium finish.
"The fourth place is one of the worst, so we're happy with this victory and this medal,” said Spain’s Ricky Rubio. “This generation deserved one more medal, and if it looks like easy from outside, winning an Olympic medal is a tough task.”
Meanwhile. Australia’s Paul Mills was proud of his team’s performance and predicted that having come so close to a medal would help basketball in the country to take a big step forward. “The biggest things is understanding how much pride and passion each and every one of these boys had to put on the green and gold,” he said. “This is what it's all about. You step on the floor and leave everything out on the floor for your country!”