Basketball: Spain, U.S. set for a sizzling semi-final
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[August 18, 2016]
By Steve Keating
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The United
States and Spain finally lived up to expectations, posting blowout
wins on Wednesday to reach the semi-finals of the Olympic men's
basketball tournament as France and Argentina lost much more than a
While the United States and Spain have struggled to reach their full
potential at times on the Rio hardwood, Australia and Serbia have
delivered much more than expected in also reaching the last four.
Even though the United States were the only team to finish group
play without a loss, questions about their ability to claim a third
straight gold swirled after three unimpressive narrow wins to close
out the preliminary round.
Those questions were answered in the form of a 105-78 rout against
Argentina as the U.S. extended their Olympic winning streak to 23
"We got our swagger back, offensively and defensively," Team USA
guard Paul George, a three-time NBA All-Star, declared to reporters.
Second-ranked Spain made a poor start to the tournament with losses
to Brazil and Croatia before shifting into top gear with four
straight wins, including a 92-67 victory over old foes France on
Wednesday to ease into the last four.
Basketball fans can now savor the prospect of a mouth-watering
semi-final between the U.S. and Spain that could double as an NBA
All-Star game as both teams are stacked with NBA champions,
All-Stars and most valuable players.
"This is another challenging team, so we have got to come in right,"
George said about Spain. "They're good. Another team full of pros.
"They have a little bit of everything. They have shooters, big men,
ball handlers, scorers.
"All of those guys are pros and they have played together for a
while so they have some experience."
Ranked 11th, Australia may be an underdog but they have been one
of the top teams in Rio and punched above their weight on Wednesday
with a 90-64 upset win over third-ranked Lithuania to close in on
what would be a first ever Olympic basketball medal.
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USA guard Paul George (13) celebrators with USA guard Kyle Lowry (7)
against Argentina during the men's basketball quarterfinals in the
Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1. Mandatory Credit:
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
"It's another step on our journey," said Matthew Dellavedova, one of
four members of the Australian squad who have NBA championship
rings. "We've set the goal of winning a gold medal and today was
just another step."
The next step for the close-knit Boomers is a semi-final meeting
with Serbia, who came out on top after a hard-fought Balkan derby as
they held off Croatia 86-83.
As France and Argentina made their quarter-final exits, they not
only said goodbye to Rio but also bade farewell to standout players
who put their respective countries on the basketball map.
Tony Parker, 34, confirmed after the loss that he had played his
final game for France.
Just a few hours later, his 39-year-old San Antonio Spurs team mate
Manu Ginobili followed suit by calling an end to his international
career with Argentina.
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