Semis-bound: Team USA overcomes Rubio's 38 to beat Spain

August 3, 2021, 3:50 PM ● Yoyo Sarmenta

The US men's basketball squad, behind Kevin Durant, reached the semifinals after withstanding Spain and Ricky Rubio's 38 points.


USA 95, Spain 81 

What went down

Team USA took Spain's best shot to the chin and still came out victorious. 

The US men's basketball team is moving on to the semifinals of the Tokyo Olympics after withstanding a humongous effort from Ricky Rubio who scored a career-best 38 points in a losing cause. 

Kevin Durant led the Americans with 29 points as four other players reached double-figures. Durant, already USA basketball's all-time Olympic leading scorer, once again found his range as he shot 10-for-17 from the field and drilled four 3-pointers.

It was a highly-contested battle between the top two ranked teams in international basketball. The USA came in as the number one team in FIBA rankings and as the defending Olympic gold medalist. On the other hand, you had Spain, ranked second by FIBA and is the reigning World Cup champion. 

Rubio got off to a roaring start by scoring 13 points in the opening period. Spain was dead-set on spoiling the USA's hunt for an Olympic medal, trading bucket for bucket in the first half as the score was tied at 43 apiece. 

But Team USA turned on the jets in the third quarter, going on a back-breaking 22-6 run. Durant spearheaded the rally with his outside shooting. Before long, Jayson Tatum (13 points), Jrue Holiday (12 points), and the rest of the crew found their rhythm as they scored 52 points in the second half while limiting their opponent to just 38. 

Sergio Rodriguez was the only other bright spot scoring the ball for Spain with 16 points followed by Willy Hernangomez who had a double-double of 10 points and 10 boards. 

Big-time baller

As Rubio was having the game of his life, Durant was the ultimate counter for Team USA. KD finished with 29 points on 10-for-17 shooting, as well as a perfect 5-for-5 from the line, to go along with four assists, two rebounds, and two steals. Every time his team needed a bucket, Durant delivered. 

If we could give a consolation prize, Rubio would obviously deserve the honor. The veteran guard did everything he could for his country with 38 points (13-of-20 shooting, 4-for-7 from 3), four boards, and two dimes. 

Rubio’s 38 points were not only the most he scored in his career but also an Olympic-high for Spain. The 2019 World Cup MVP balled out. 

What he said

The US men's national team has not missed a chance to compete in the medal round since 1936 when basketball was first played in the Olympics. 

As the 2021 team heads to the semifinals, here's Kevin Durant postgame via AP's Tim Reynolds:

“We’ve just got to finish it. Got to finish it,” Durant said. “We’re supposed to be here. For us, it’s about getting the gold.”

Did you see that?

KD with a slam to cap off a huge night for Team USA.