Monday, August 25, 2008

The Goose-Bumps Ending, No Less

The final buzzer sounded and I had goose bumps. Yeah, right. It was such an awesome ending to this basketball tournament that some of my buddies were on the verge of shedding tears of joy and happiness. We got the ultimate summer present - an ultra-competitve gold medal game that had everything you want when you wanna see some classic game. *That'll probably go down as one of the greatest Olympic games ever,* said LeBron. USA’s thrilling 118-107 victory over Spain... but both teams were winners in their own way. The redemption for the hoops cradle. The pride for de la Espana valiant effort.

The United States sent their best to the Beijing Games and it’s a good thing they did because the Americans needed every weapon in their arsenal to beat Spain in the gold medal game at the Olympics. After steamrolling the competition and charging into the final as huge favourites, Team USA had to put on an incredible performance to win the prize.

They blew out Spain in their Group B preliminary round encounter 119-82 and nearly everyone believed they would be convincing winners again. But a dynamic performance from Rudy Fernandez (22 pts; Nate McMillan gotta be double-giddy, Trail Blazers are the force of the future with Rudy), who even dunked (do you like to be posterized, Superman?) over D-Howard in the second half, and a brilliant offensive effort from JC Navarro (18 pts), who came out of huge slump and was hitting his patented one-foot runners like a machine, kept the world champions close for the entire game.

*Spain were unbelievable,* said LBJ. *Every possession counted. You couldn't take one second off. If it wasn't for our determination and the will power that we have on each other (shakes head)... much respect for Spain but USA is back on top again.*

Spain fell behind by 14 in the first half but maintained their concentration and only trailed 69-61 (where were teams’ Ds?) at half-time. Aito Garcia Reneses’ men eventually closed the gap to 91-89 with 8:13 left when Rudy hit a three-pointer. The Arena was rockin’. Kobe Dobermamba (20 pts) went to the other end and scored in the lane (on his patented ill-advised but bull’s eye shot) and following a Rudy miss from behind the arc, the USA rushed the ball up the floor and a wide-open D-Will drilled a three to open up a seven-point advantage.

After D-Howard scored to extend the lead to 98-89, Rudy (he was everywhere, he’s like a better version of Josh Howard) gave Spain hope with another three. Yet Kobe replied immediately with a bomb. Spain soon after suffered a major hammer blow when Kobe, from several feet beyond the arc, made a three and was fouled by Rudy - his fifth of the game! Fouled out! Kobe sank the FT for a 108-99 lead but Spain, even with Rudy out, kept their poise. The excellent Navarro scored with a runner in the paint and Spain captain Carlos Jimenez buried a three to make it 108-104 with 2:28 remaining. That was an epic battle. D-Wade (game-high 27 pts) answered with a sealing trey for the USA and Spain got no closer than six the rest of the way.

Spain’s bench was hit with a technical and 17-year-old (M)Ricky (M)Rubio was also called for one in the final minute and the Jerry Colangelo-Coach K guys took advantage by making three of four free throws to pad the score at the end. *It has been a very beautiful game to play,* said Pau Gasol. *I think this final game says a lot about what team we are and how we deserve to be in this position. We should be very proud of what we have accomplished here. We never backed down and played a tough game.*

Spain played well despite the absence of star point guard Josema (I like those Spanish names) Calderon, who missed his second straight game with a groin injury. RR(MM) had six points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals in more than 28 minutes on the floor. Even my mom was impressed by his performance. To be under 18, play in the OG gold medal game and play a great game, that’s pretty amazing. He’s become the youngest basketball player at the age of 17 to win a medal at the Olympic Games.

Pau, Kobe’s Lakers teammate, had 21 points and six rebounds for Spain while his brother Marc (I think the Grizzlies got something in him, actually. He’s got a huge body, is a plug in the lane and can score a little.) scored 11 and pulled down five boards. The unheralded hero of Spain, Felipe Reyes, played a very solid game, as well. For the Americans, LBJ finished with 14 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals while the outstanding motor C-Paul and not-so-mellow Melo each scored 13. Team USA accomplished their goal of winning gold in China with a great performance on and off the court.

*Spain showed why they are the world champions,* said Kobe. *This is a testament to the system that Mr. Colangelo put in place, what you saw today was the team. Everyone wants to talk about NBA players being arrogant, selfish, being individuals but what you saw today was a team bonding together, facing adversity and coming out of here with a big win.* When asked if the team would stay together, Colangelo joked: *What these guys didn’t know is they actually signed up for an eight-year commitment.*

The USA didn't dominate in the final game, they performed. They closed it out, finally.

Moments that you should never forget if your fave sport is basketball:

*Dwyane freaking Wade’s big-time steal and reverse dunk.
*Rubio’s behind the back dribble at the top of the key past J-Kidd before splitting D-Howard and Melo to to drop in a finger roll.
*At one point, the U.S. was on pace to have a 138-point game. And it's a 40-minute game. This was officially an unbelievably fun game to watch.
*Spain down 91-84, Rudy initiates a stunning alley-oop with Pau.
*Rudy’s monster slam.
*Kobe’s best play a human can make, a four-point play. Psst!
*Wade’s dagger-trey. Explosion!

Henry Abbott: *This game had so many major storylines. The redemption of USA basketball. Dwyane Wade's perfect start to the game (he finished with 27). Kobe Bryant's end-game heroics. Rudy Fernandez's major-league 22 tough points on 13 shots. Ricky Rubio - at 17 - looking at home on the court with All-Stars in the place of injured Jose Calderon. Pau Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro hitting big shots. Spain coming close to defending their World Championships. You know what? This could be the biggest win in the history of Team USA. In 1992, no single game really meant all that much. Probably the team's most famous game was that rigged 1972 loss to the Soviet Union. But has there ever been a bigger win?*

With American Redemption completed, the celebration begins. It begins with hugs and player’s circle in the middle of the floor. Straight forward to the medal ceremony: congrats, Argentina, for your bronze finish (Manu, get well soon! You’re my Hero, hombre!), Spain for your silver metals. Here we go... the Americans locked arms and stepped onto the medal podium as one, then raised their arms in unison toward the American fans. ...LeBron’s receiving his -GOLD- medal, reaching down, grabbing it and staring at it. He’s holding it inches from his eyes and just gazing at it, transfixed. Unable to move. They’re handing him a bouquet of red roses, he’s holding ‘em to his nose and inhaling two huge breaths, the sweet smell of victory filling his nostrils and lungs. Kidd got a happy look on his face, the one that you got when you know it’s your last great accomplishment in your HoF career. Paul’s smiling like he already knows there’s more to come in 2012 & 2016. Boozer is purely happy just to stand there. Deron Williams is savoring the flavor of every mouthful. Mike Redd’s smile is cool. Dwyane’s waving at fans, like sayin’ ‘I’m back in November!’, Tay Prince’s ecstatic in his own manner, Chris Bosh’s emotionally kissing the hardware while Dwight H.’s got his eyes closed, gold in his fingers, reminiscing the long road to redemption. Melo Anthony’s wiping a tear from his right eye as they’re raising the American flag above the court and playing the U.S. national anthem. Kobe’s singing along as James is standing nearby, stone-faced, his right hand on his heart...

Chris Sheridan: *It was an overwhelming sight to behold, the possession of those gold medals made so much more fulfilling because of what had transpired on the court for 40 immensely entertaining minutes. The members of Team USA didn't just win their gold medals, they earned them against the first opponent that finally gave them a game.*

*We were at America's lowest point in '04,* said Melo, one of four players who were in Athens. *And to be sitting here in front of you guys tonight [the press] and be on top of the world, I think we did a hell of a job of putting American basketball back where it's supposed to be.*


Posted by Foreigner in CS - Aug 25 2008 10:49PM

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