LONDON -- Shades of Beijing. Spain outplayed the U.S. in the second quarter and trailed by only one point, 59-58, at halftime of the men's basketball gold medal game at North Greenwich Arena.
Backup point guard Sergio Rodriquez provided a big spark for Spain in the second quarter. So did Rudy Fernandez, an NBA backup who was tough going to the basket and made six straight free throws to help the Spaniards stay in it. Marc Gasol, the 7-1 all-star center from the Grizzlies, picked up his third and fourth fouls in the space of a minute -- don't ask me why the coach left him in -- but Spain seemed to elevate its play without him.
Kevin Durant leads the U.S. with 17 points, seven from the line. Kevin Love was tough off the bench with nine points and six rebounds. LeBron James had eight points, six rebounds and three assists. Juan Carlos Navarro leads Spain with 19 points, including 4 of 6 three-pointers (including a four-point play). Pal Gasol of the Lakers has eight points, six rebounds and five assists.
Of course, the American have been played tough for a half before in these Games. Generally, they come out flying after halftime and take over the game. LeBron James is usually in the middle of it. Spain shot remarkably well in the first half. But the U.S. is likely to tighten its defense on the perimter, making it tougher for Spain to get open shots.
Still, it looks like Spain intends to remain in it until the late going, as it did in a 118-107 loss to the U.S. in a classic gold medal game in Beijing.