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Spain, USA set up basketball final
August 23, 2008 00:08 IST
Hot favorites the United States trampled defending champions Argentina 101-81 in a bruising game on Friday to reach the Olympic men's basketball final.
The Americans will face world champions Spain in Sunday's gold medal game, a team they trounced in the tournament's group stage.
Spain survived a fright to beat Lithuania 91-86 in a tempestuous game of flying elbows, trash-talking and flagrant fouls.
Argentina soccer great Diego Maradona [Images] sat glumly with his head in his hands as his countrymen went down to the U.S. after losing their best player Manu Ginobili with an ankle injury.
Fired up by an eyeball-to-eyeball clash with Argentina's Fabricio Oberto, Carmelo Anthony led the U.S. with 21 points. Luis Scola carried the fight for the Argentines with 28.
"There was a lot of banging -- I'm sore right now," Anthony told reporters. "They were trying to get physical and it got a little bit chirpy but nothing personal, nothing major."
Argentina lost Ginobili, the tournament's leading scorer, with just under four minutes left in the first quarter, making it almost impossible to match the superior firepower of the
"It was terrible that the best player in the tournament got injured in a semi-final," said Argentina coach Sergio Hernandez.
"It was big blow for us but we can't cry about it."
Scola refused to make excuses for their semi-final defeat.
"Injuries are part of the game," he said. "We've got to be honest -- they were better than us. They've been playing better than us all tournament. We've got to move on."
The U.S. have won 12 Olympic men's basketball titles but their dominance has waned in recent years, finishing with bronze four years ago and third at the 2006 world championships.
Forward Pau Gasol scored 19 points, while guard Rudy Fernandez sparked a fourth-quarter charge to add 18 as Spain fought back from a four-point deficit after three periods against Lithuania.
Spain will be huge underdogs in the final having been shredded 119-82 by the Americans in the first-round group stage but their coach promised his team would not roll over.
"We will have our chances to beat them," said Aito Garcia Reneses. "I don't know what percentage but what's certain is that we won't repeat the game we had against them last time."
Spain's only Olympic medal in men's basketball came at the 1984 Games when they took silver behind the U.S.
It was more semi-final heartbreak for three-times bronze medalists Lithuania, meanwhile, after being ousted at the same stage at the last four Olympics [Images].
"We always lose in the semi-finals," shrugged Lithuania captain Ramunas Siskauskas. "We had a chance but we missed it. Now we try to forget it and get the bronze medal."
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