Spurs center Pau Gasol ended one of the most distinguished careers in international basketball competition with a win over Australia in Sunday’s bronze medal game in the Olympic tournament in Rio de Janeiro.
In the gold medal game, the United States blew out Serbia, 96-66. Kevin Durant scored 30 points as Team USA won its third straight gold medal.
Spain’s 89-88 victory over Australia gave Gasol his third Olympic medal but came at the expense of his new Spurs teammate, Patty Mills. Trying to earn the first basketball medal ever for Australia, Mills scored 30 points in a losing cause. He finished the Olympic tournament as its No. 2 scorer, with 149 points in seven games, an average of 21.3 points per game that also ranked as the No. 2 scoring average.
For all his success as the tournament’s most productive scorer Mills is apt to be haunted by the foul he committed with 5.4 seconds remaining, his team within seconds of victory. He was called for a blocking foul on Spanish guard Sergio Rodriguez as Rodriguez drove to the rim from the perimeter, a referee’s decision that utterly unbiased NBC-TV analyst Fran Fruscilla asserted should not have been made.
Rodriguez made both free throws to give Spain the 89-88 lead that became the final score when Australia committed its 15th turnover of the game on the ensuing in-bounds play.
When the final buzzer secured the outcome the Spanish team celebrated with a “dogpile” at center court while the Australians looked on, holding their heads in disappointment and disbelief.
The “Boomers” were hampered Sunday by their 15 turnovers and the early loss of center Andrew Bogut, their best big man. The Golden State Warriors veteran picked up his fourth and fifth fouls in the first two minutes and six seconds of the third quarter.
Gasol was the undisputed hero for Spain, its leading scorer for the sixth time in their eight tournament games. He poured in 31 points in the bronze medal game and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds. He totaled at tournament-high 156 points in eight games, a scoring average of 19.5 points per game that gave him the fourth-highest scoring average.
A silver medalist in the 2008 and 2012 Olympiads, the 36-year-old Gasol likely has played in his final Olympic tournament. He told reporters in Rio that he will evaluate the future of his participation with the Spanish national team on a “year by year” basis. He will be 39 when the next FIBA World Cup championship tournament will be played in 2019 and 40 when the next Olympic tournament is held in Tokyo in 2020, when Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will serve as head coach of Team USA.
If the Rio tournament becomes Gasol’s final Olympic participation, he will have become the No. 3 scorer in Olympic basketball history. His 534 points in four Olympics trails only all-time scoring leader Oscar Schmidt of Brazil (1,093 points), and onetime Spur Andrew Gaze of Australia (789 points).
Mills, who is 28, completed his third Olympic tournament. He has scored 351 points in 19 games in the three Olympiads, an average of 18.5 points per game.
Five Spurs competed in the Olympic tournament. In addition to Gasol and Mills, guards Manu Ginobili and Patricio Garino played for Argentina and guard Tony Parker played for France.
Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski ended his eight-year run as head coach of Team USA in Rio. USA Basketball, which oversees all national teams, announced last October that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will follow Krzyzewski as head coach of the men’s national team, beginning in 2017.
Top image: Team Spain celebrates winning the Men’s Basketball Bronze medal game against Australia on August 21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images.