|24 August 2008|
Spain's players put on the performances of their lives but came up just short of upsetting the United States in the gold medal game at the Olympics.
Rudy Fernandez underlined his status as one of the hottest stars in international basketball with 22 points but the USA prevailed 118-107.
Spain fell behind by 14 points in the first half but maintained their concentration and only trailed 69-61 at half-time.
Aito Garcia Reneses' men eventually closed the gap to 91-89 with 8:13 left when Fernandez hit a three-pointer.
The excellent Juan Carlos Navarro scored with a runner in the paint and Spain captain Carlos Jimenez buried a three to make it 108-104 with 2:28 remaining.
Dwyane Wade answered with a trey for the USA and Spain got no closer than six the rest of the way.
"It has been a very beautiful game to play," said Spain's Pau Gasol.
"It's a pity because we came mighty close. We had options during the game. I am proud of my team-mates, of the technical staff. I think this final game says a lot about what team we are and how we deserve to be in this position.
"We should be very proud of what we have accomplished here. We never backed down and played a tough game."
"Spain were unbelievable," USA star LeBron James said.
"Every possession counted. You couldn't take one second off. If it wasn't for our determination, and the will power that we have on each other (shakes head) ...
"Much respect for Spain but USA is back on top again."
The USA hit 70% (26 of 37) of their shots inside the arc, compared to Spain's 38 of 75 (51%). Fernandez and Co finished eight of 17 (47%) from long range.
Spain out-rebounded the USA 37-31 and held up well under the defensive pressure, committing just 14 turnovers to 13 for the Americans.
Spain played well despite the absence of star point guard Jose Manuel Calderon, who missed his second straight game with a groin injury.
Ricky Rubio had six points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals in more than 28 minutes on the floor.
He has become the youngest basketball player at the age of 17 to win a medal at the Olympic Games.
Gasol, Bryant's Lakers teammate, had 21 points and six rebounds for Spain while his brother Marc scored 11 and pulled down five boards.