By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Sunday, August 21st, in the Olympics’ final sports competition, the U.S., who have dominated the medal table since the Games began seventeen days ago, fittingly won the last gold medal of the 2016 Rio Olympics. At the sold-out 15,000-seat Carioca Arena 1 in Barra da Tijuca, the U.S. men’s basketball team overwhelmed Serbia 96-66 to win the team’s third straight basketball gold medal.
In winning the last gold medal of the Games, Team USA finalizes its dominance of the Rio Olympics, sitting atop the medal table with 46 gold medals and 121 overall, more than fifty more than the next closest country, China, who earned seventy medals. Great Britain finished third in the overall count with 67, but the nation was second when it came to golds with 27.
In Sunday’s gold medal game, Serbia actually led for most of the first quarter, indicative of the U.S.’s struggles throughout the tournament. Though undefeated heading into the final, the U.S. men’s team flirted with disaster at several points in the tournament, including razor-thin three point victories over France and its gold medal opponent Serbia in Group play.
With gold on the line, the team finally came together late in the first quarter and into the second, clamping down defensively, causing turnovers and contesting shots, frustrating Serbia’s normally patient offense. The suffocating defense ignited Team USA’s offense and the club pulled ahead in the second quarter and would not trail the rest of the game.
A far cry from the 91 points that Serbia scored against the U.S. in group play, in the gold medal final, the club could only muster 43 points after three quarters, leading to the inevitable 96-66 win.
Former Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant, who had been inconsistent throughout the tournament, saved his best for last, leading all players with thirty points.
A tearful Carmelo Anthony, who now owns three gold medals, told NBC afterward, “I committed to this [Team USA basketball] since ’04. I’ve seen the worst of it,” referring to the team’s humiliating bronze medal finish in the 2004 Athens Olympics. “But, we stuck with it and I’m here today, three gold medals later.”