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Men’s basketball: U.S. wins ugly, Serbia’s up next

Brian Mahoney
Associated Press

Rio de Janeiro — Gone was the all-offense, all-action play that turned the last two gold medal games into classics.

To get by Spain again, Team USA would have to win ugly.

“It was just a different game,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

Same result, though.

The U.S. advanced to its third straight gold medal game win an 82-76 victory Friday, another tight matchup between the teams that met in the last two championship games.

Klay Thompson scored 22 for the Americans, who play Serbia on Sunday for their third consecutive Olympic title. Serbia beat Australia, 87-61.

“This is where we wanted to be,” Kevin Durant said. “We talked about it all summer and to be here for the final game, to win the gold, for all the marbles, we like our chances.”

The Americans pulled away to win 118-107 in 2008 and held on for a 107-100 victory in London, but the defenses made their mark in this one. The U.S. was just good enough again against Spain, with bodies falling more than shots and several technical fouls keeping the teams from finding an offensive flow.

It wasn’t pretty, but Olympic gold never loses its luster.

“It’s an amazing feeling now,” center DeAndre Jordan said. “We really want to accomplish this.”

It was the lowest-scoring game for the Americans in the Olympics since the 2004 semifinals, when they had 81 in a loss to Argentina.

But Jordan made his presence felt in the middle with 16 rebounds, four blocks and nine points.

Durant added 14 points on the day he moved past LeBron James into second on the U.S. Olympic career scoring list.

Pau Gasol scored 23 for Spain, which made it tough on the Americans for the third straight Olympics, but again had to settle for coming close.

He believes Spain missed its best chance to beat the U.S.

“They are not playing as well as other times they’ve played,” Gasol said. “I just (feel) like if we had been a little sharper with our shots, if we would have moved the ball a little better, if we would have boxed out more, and make it a two- or three-possession game, then you’re talking about a whole different story.”

The U.S. will have to be a lot sharper itself against Serbia.

Running their offense to text-book precision, the Serbs back cut, screened and scared the Americans in pool play before losing 94-91 in perhaps the tournament’s most well-played game.

“Unbelievable,” said forward Nikola Kalinic. “Serbia is a really small country, so it’s an even bigger success for such a small country, two times in the world championship and now in the Olympic games. We are in the finals against the U.S. States, so it’s an unbelievable success.”