The gold medal dreams of the last two Spurs players alive in the Olympic basketball tournament were crushed Friday in Rio de Janeiro.
Center Pau Gasol had his hopes ended by an old nemesis, the United States denying Spain a chance at the gold medal for the third time in the last three Olympic Games, winning one of two semifinal games, 82-76.
Point guard Patty Mills and his Australian team entered their game against Serbia as favorites after four straight wins in group and medal play but ended up on the wrong end of a stunning blowout, losing by an 87-61 score.
Five Spurs began play in the tournament on Aug. 6: Gasol, Mills, Argentine teammates Manu Ginobili and Patricio Garino, and France’s Tony Parker.
For Gasol, who signed a free agent contract with the Spurs in July, it was a repeat of the disappointment he and his Spanish teammates suffered in Beijing, in 2008, and London, in 2012. In both of those Olympiads he led his team to the gold medal game against the United States. Team USA scored a 111-100 victory in 2008; a 107-100 victory in 2012.
Friday’s loss likely was more difficult for Mills to accept. Not only was his team favored in a game against a team that was 3-3 in group and medal play, he entered it as the leading scorer in the 2016 tournament, having scored 106 points and averaged 21.2 points. But against Serbia’s aggressive defense he was held to 13 points, on 6-or-16 shooting, 37.5%. He made only 1-of-9 3-point shots.
The Serbs held Australia to 22-for-66 shooting, just 33%.
Serbian guard Milos Teodosic made 9-of-14 shots and led all scorers, with 22 points.
Playing with a wrap on his painful right calf, injured Wednesday in Spain’s quarterfinal win over France, Gasol did everything he could in attempt to propel Spain into another gold medal game. He scored a game-high 23 points and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds for Spain. It was not enough to prevail against Team USA’s lock-down defense that limited Spain to 39% shooting. Gasol made 9-of-19 shots; his teammates just 19-of-63 shots, 30.1%. Team USA’s defensive star was DeAndre Jordan, who blocked four shots and grabbed 16 rebounds.
The balanced USA attack was led by Klay Thompson, who scored 22 points.
At age 36, Gasol may well have played in his final Olympic tournament, if not his final international event. One of the all-time European players, he will be 40 when the 2020 Olympic tournament takes place in Tokyo.
Spurs stars Ginobili and Tony Parker announced their retirements from their national teams after their teams lost in the quarterfinals of the Rio tournament.
One of the two Spurs who lost on Friday will return to San Antonio with the bronze medal. Spain and Australia will meet in the consolation game on Sunday before Team USA meets Serbia in the gold medal game. A win for Spain would give Gasol his third Olympic medal, the Spaniards having won silver in both Beijing and London. Were Australia to win it would be the first medal ever for Mills and the Boomers.
Top Image: DeAndre Jordan #6 and Kyrie Irving #10 of United States celebrate a Jordan dunk as Pau Gasol #4 of Spain looks on during the Men’s Semifinal match on Day 14 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 19, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images.