The two best basketball-playing nations faced off on Tuesday afternoon in Barcelona in the final tune up to the Olympics for Kobe Bryant’s Team USA and Pau Gasol’s Spain, with the Americans blowing things open in the second half to win 100-78.
In a possible preview of a London Olympics medal game, Bryant played only 20 minutes towards six points, four assists and two boards, while Gasol led Spain with 19 points on six of eight shooting alongside five boards.
Team USA used its superior speed and athleticism to overcome Spain’s size, as coach Mike Krzyzewski’s team did throughout an undefeated 5-game warm up schedule, overcoming injuries to Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh and LaMarcus Aldridge.
With Pau’s brother Marc Gasol out favoring a shoulder injury in this one, “naturalized citizen” Serge Ibaka* was everywhere early, making his first six buckets to put the Spaniards up 23-14.
*Each nation is allowed one such player, Ibaka qualifying as he lived in Spain while playing professionally as a teenager.
The U.S., however, responded behind a scorching hot Carmelo Anthony, whose 23 points in the first half had the U.S. up 48-40 after Melo buried his fifth three-pointer in the final minutes of the second quarter.
Bryant’s first highlight play came on a huge baseline dunk in the final minutes of the first half, as he exploded over a Spanish defender to finish with two hands, looking like the Kobe that wore No. 8 (if you’re keeping track, he wears 24 for the Lakers and 10 for Team USA).
He was content with facilitating on offense, however, moving the ball quickly and making the extra pass, taking only three shots in his 20 minutes. Gasol was Spain’s best player, scoring with ease inside particularly when matched up against Kevin Love, with the better defender Tyson Chandler in foul trouble.