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US cagers outgun brave Spain for gold
August 24, 2008 14:36 IST
Last Updated: August 24, 2008 15:35 IST
Hot favourites the United States won Olympic [Images] men's basketball gold by outgunning valiant Spain 118-107 in a final of hard fouls and flying elbows on Sunday.
The American players whooped with joy at the final buzzer before forming a huddle and dancing around the centre circle as the crowd of 18,000 erupted with chants of "USA, USA."
Athens champions Argentina took bronze by outmuscling Lithuania in a 87-75 victory earlier on the final day of the Games.
World champions Spain were down by as many as 14 points in the first half but pulled to within two on a Rudy Fernandez three-pointer with 8:13 left in the gold medal showdown.
Jolted into action, Kobe Bryant [Images] swished two huge three-pointers, putting his finger to his lips after the second which put the US back up by eight with 3:10 left.
Dwyane Wade led the way with 27 points, sealing the game on another long bomb which he celebrated with a gunslinger's pose and a snarl of defiance to the crowd.
Bryant, who turned 30 the day before the final, add 20 points. The Americans, relegated to bronze in Athens four years ago, have now won 13 Olympic men's basketball titles.
The only cheer louder than that for Bryant's late three-pointer was when Chinese TV cameras spotted David Beckham [Images] courtside and his face flashed on the giant arena screen.
Crushed 119-82 by the Americans in the tournament's group stage, Spain hung tough in the final, Fernandez scoring 22 points and Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers team mate Pau Gasol adding 21.
With an injured Manu Ginobili watching from the bench in jeans and a T-shirt, Carlos Delfino stepped up to lead 2004 gold medallists Argentina with 20 points against Lithuania.
Ginobili had been the tournament's leading scorer until he twisted his ankle in the first quarter of Argentina's semi-final loss to the United States.
"I wasn't able to run," the San Antonio Spurs guard told Reuters. "I didn't try to be a hero. I'm extremely proud of what these guys have done. It's kind of emotional."
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