The United States finishes off a golden three-peat with a 96-66 clobbering of Serbia 96-66.
Team USA’s best player stepped up when they needed him most as Kevin Durant scored a game-high 30 points to go along with four assists, three rebounds, three steals and a block.
The United States looked sluggish in the first quarter and seemed plagued by the same issues that dogged the gold medalfavorites earlier in the tournament. Team USA began the game playing a lot of isolation offense, and struggled to function as a unit on the offensive end. At the end of one, Serbia trailed by just four and looked like they may challenge the U.S. for gold.
Instead, Durant came alive in the second quarter. He outscored Serbia by himself in the quarter, 18-14. By halftime, the U.S. had extended their lead to 23 points.
With the win, Carmelo Anthony won his third Olympic title, setting the record for most Olympic gold medals won by a single player. Anthony tallied seven points, seven rebounds, two assists and a steal in the game.
Anthony established the mark for most career rebounds by a U.S. player in the final game. With his seventh rebound in the game, he surpassed David Robinson with 125 boards in his Olympic career. Earlier in the tournament, Anthony set the record for the most careers points by a USA basketball player at the Games.
After the game, Anthony told NBC’s Rosalyn Gold-Onwude that the Rio tournament would be his last.
“I know this is the end, this is it for me,” Anthony said. “I committed to this in ’04. I’ve seen the worst and I’ve seen the best.”
With Durant and Anthony as the only returning Olympians, the remaining ten Americans win gold for their first time.
Of the newcomers, DeMarcus Cousins provided the U.S. a big spark off the bench. He scored 13 points to go along with 15 rebounds, two assists and two steals. As did Klay Thompson, who added 12 points in the gold medal game. All 12 U.S. players scored in the game.
The win was the last with Mike Krzyzewski as head coach. He took the reins in 2005 and helped to bring the United States back to the pinnacle of the international basketball world. The team only lost one game while he was on the bench, and went undefeated in Olympic play. He walks away as the first men's basketball coach to have won three gold medals.
The U.S. struggled earlier in the tournament, but has been dominant in the medal round, beating Argentina, Spain and now Serbia en route to the Olympic title. Much of the turnaround can be attributed to a renewed defensive effort – a hallmark of Coach K’s previous Olympic teams.
Serbia was on a run of impressive performances in their own right. They beat Australia and Croatia to make it to the Olympic final. In their first Olympic appearance in men’s basketball as an independent nation, Serbia comes away with the silver. The Serbian women's basketball team won bronze on Saturday.
The Serbians were led by Nemanja Nedovic, who came off the bench for 14 points, two assists, two steals and one rebound.
Durant scored also scored 30 points at the 2012 Olympics when the United States beat Spain for the gold medal in London. The total ties the record for most points by a player in the gold medal game, which he shares with Adrian Dantley.
2016 marks the end of the line for Anthony and Coach K, but not the end of USA Basketball. In all likelihood the United States will return to defend their Olympic title in 2020. The coach will be different, the roster will be different, but the goal always remains the same.
At the Rio Olympics, the United States men’s basketball team accomplished that goal. While the journey wasn’t easy, they’ll forever be golden.