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Team USA advances to third-straight gold medal game, edges out Spain, 82-76

Momentum was there for the taking, but Team USA battled foul trouble and sloppiness in an uneven win over Spain behind DeAndre Jordan's dominance on the glass and 22 points from Klay Thompson.

Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Faced with containing Ricky Rubio's ability to penetrate-and-kick after holding the Argentinians below 80 points in the quarterfinals, Team USA's renewed defensive focus proved to be more than Fool's Gold in the Americans' continued pursuit of Olympic gold, as they earned a gritty, 82-76, win over Spain.

Though questions continued to linger regarding Pau Gasol's availability ahead of today's semifinals, Spain's leading scorer appeared in good health early, as he poured in twelve of his team's first sixteen points while testing DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan's ability to contest his shot out of the pick-and-roll and taking full advantage of Team USA's poor perimeter defense to put himself in position for offensive rebounds

Ricky Rubio was sent to the bench early with foul trouble, but sloppy play on behalf of the Americans kept Spain afloat in his absence, before Team USA's bench lineup stretched the lead to nine, 26-17, by the end of the frame.

Still, an ice-cold shooting start from Carmelo Anthony (0-of-4), foul trouble, and technical fouls committed by Paul George and Kevin Durant made it difficult for the United States, who continued to look disjointed on offense as Coach K experimented with some odd playing combinations, to impose their will consistently in the second frame, as Spain pulled to within six, 45-39, in what was a choppy first half of play for both countries.

Klay Thompson was Team USA's saving grace through two quarters, scoring 17 points on 60 percent shooting, while the rest of his team shot a putrid 32 percent from the field. The offensive struggles of Irving (1-of-3) and Anthony (1-of-6) were most noticeable, especially considering that each player's leaky defense already makes him a liability on one end of the floor. All of which brings into question why Coach K elected not to rely on the defensive efforts of Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, and Paul George to change the game earlier.

Instead, the trio didn't see any action together until there was under 30 seconds to play in the third. Several energy plays from DeAndre Jordan in the frame, including a demonstrative putback dunk followed by a blocked shot against Pau Gasol, made it seem like the United States would finally seize control, but Spain kept it within single-digits heading into the fourth mostly by feasting on second chance points.

With Kyle Lowry, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, and DeAndre Jordan on the floor to start the final frame, Team USA pushed the lead to as much as fifteen. While some ill-advised high-risk, low-reward plays kept things interesting, Spain would never pull closer than nine the rest of the way.

Thompson finished with 22 points, including four three-pointers while Jordan contributed nine points to go along with an Olympic record-tying 16 rebounds and four blocks. Irving found his offense late, tallying 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting.

Paul George added six points and six rebounds and was locked in defensively, but appeared mostly out of sync on offense as he battled foul trouble and frustration with officiating. Prior to the semi-finals, George, who averaged 3.3 turnovers per game with the Pacers, had given the ball away only twice with Team USA. He doubled that total against Spain.

Despite their American adversaries appearing far more vulnerable on the whole than they ever did in Beijing or London, Spain's loss marked the third-straight Olympics where their continuity was not enough to overcome Team USA's talent. Pau Gasol finished with 23 points and eight rebounds, but Rubio finished with more fouls (3) than points (0), rebounds, (1), and assists (1).

Team USA will play the winner of tonight's contest between Australia and Serbia for gold on Sunday.