Sunday’s game was a contrast in styles, as Spain, with brothers Pau and Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, were intent on a grind-it-out in the post strategy, while Team USA countered with its superior athleticism and 3-point shooting. From the start, It was a physical match but was called very tightly – particularly in the first half - where there was a total of 33 fouls called. Both teams were chastened somewhat by the FIBA officials’ close calls; but probably the most critically affected was Spain’s Marc Gasol, who had four fouls with just over six minutes left in the first half. He wound up sitting the rest of the half and all of the third period. This was highly ominous for Spain.
Team USA struggled for momentum most of the game, due in large part to a highly physical and effective Spanish half-court strategy of fouling to prevent fast breaks. At the half, the US led by only one point, 59-58. Doc Rivers, an analyst for NBC Sports, said at halftime that major questions for the US team remained, such as whether they could compete in the post with the Gasol brothers and Ibaka, instead of relying on the 3-point shot, for which they've reportedly received some criticism these games. Rivers then added, “That’s just who they are.”
But in the second half, very much in the manner of their previous games, the US team was able to get some good inside production from Kobe Bryant, playing in his last Olympics, and Chris Paul, in addition to James’ and Durant's outside shooting. And when Marc Gasol re-entered the game In the fourth quarter, his aggressiveness was hampered by having to avoid a fifth and final foul.