Aug. 26, 2004
Hey baby, we saw the real U.S. hoops team showing a sense of urgency when it needed to against Spain. The Americans utilized their athleticism and showed their quickness by repeatedly scoring transition baskets. Team USA knew if it was going to have any shot at winning a medal at the Olympics, it had to knock off previously unbeaten Spain in the quarterfinals. Coach Larry Brown's team came through with a solid all-around effort, hitting the trifectas, converting steals into layups and hanging on down the stretch to get a big W, 102-94.
The Americans won despite several players in foul trouble. Tim Duncan sat out most of the second quarter after picking up his second foul. Lamar Odom, who played solid defense, fouled out. But they were bailed out by Stephon Marbury, who averaged just over four points per game in the first five games of the Olympic tournament, exploded to score an American Olympic record 31 points. He hit big three-pointer after big three-pointer.
Allen Iverson, who scored just three points in the first half, also came to life in the second half. Throw in Dwyane Wade's effort off the bench with steals that led to hoops and it's easy to see how the quickness of the American guards was a big factor in this victory.
The three-pointer, which was a key in early-round losses, was a big-time positive against Spain. The Spaniards had Pau Gasol inside but could not hit the trifectas like other countries had been able to against the U.S. Give Brown's defense some credit for extending more on the perimeter.
Speaking of the bench, Carlos Boozer came in again and played steady basketball on both ends of the court. He made clutch plays throughout.
Brown is looking for the big double, an NBA championship and an Olympic title. If the Americans play with the same intensity and continue to hit the threes, this team will be tough to beat. I still feel Team USA will leave Greece with another gold medal.
Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979 (he's been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.