Full time: As rocky as today's game was for your faithful narrator and his dubious Internet connection (I'm still on hold), it was a dozen times worse for the Spanish national team. Whatever mental edge they carried into this tournament as reigning world champions was emphatically overturned. Team USA is no longer a co-favorite to win the gold medal in the Aug. 24 tournament final; within 40 minutes, they've become the runaway, overwhelming choice. And any team who manages to derail the Redeem Team at this point will have pulled off one of the greater upsets in a generation. Game ball goes to LeBron James, who finished with a game-high 18 points (to lead eight U.S. players in double figures) and seven assists. Honorable mention goes out to Jason Kidd, who attempted his first shot of the entire Olympic tournament during the third quarter ... and made it!
0:40.0, 4th: Tayshaun Prince just canned a three-pointer, extending a 27-11 which has blown this game wide open. United States 119, Spain 82. Statement game, anybody?
5:58, 4th: The U.S. just peeled off a pair of three-point scoring plays on back-to-back possessions to inch closer toward the century mark. Kobe Bryant calmly sank a shot from beyond the arc and, on the ensuing possession, Dwight Howard muscled his way for two points while drawing a foul on Marc Gasol. Howard converted the free throw to extend the U.S. lead to 99-71.
8:45, 4th: Dwyane Wade's basket extends a 10-2 run which has seen the Team USA advantage balloon to 27 points.
End, 3rd: Chris Bosh throws down a dunk with 13 seconds remaining in the quarter on a pass from LeBron James, who's logged five assists today. The scoring play opens the Team USA advantage to 87-63.
4:30, 3rd: I'm not sure even the most optimistic U.S. supporters expected the Americans to dominate the reigning world champions quite like this. Spain has tried everything -- from switching their defensive looks to shortening their player rotations -- in an effort to contain the Americans. Nothing has worked. LeBron sinks a pair of fouls to re-extend the U.S. lead to 20 points.
5:04, 3rd: We're back on the grid after our second Internet outage of the day and not much has changed at the Wukesong Indoor Stadium in Beijing, where the United States continues to have its way with the Spanish. Juan Carlos Navarro just split a pair of fouls to pull Spain within 74-55 -- but Chris Paul responds on the opposite end to extend the U.S. lead to 21 points.
Halftime: The first rule of journalism is never put yourself in the story, but I'd be remiss not to apologize about the Internet issues I've endured during today's first half. Here's hoping Time Warner gets me off hold and squared away for the last 20 minutes. As for the game -- not sure it could have gone much better for the U.S. during the first half. They lead 61-45, they're knocking down their outside jumpers and playing suffocating defense, as the 19 forced turnovers would indicate.
1:24, 2nd: Ricky Rubio throws a beauitful alley-oop pass to Rudy Fernandez. The crowd oohs and aahs but the good-looking play still only cuts the American lead to 57-42.
2:48, 2nd: Chris Paul sinks a pair of fouls to open the lead to 56-36, as the camera pans to a bunch of dejected-looking Spanish players -- incluidng Pau Gasol -- on the bench.
3:56, 2nd: Some very attractive ball movement for the U.S. in the half-court set as they're really making Spain work and expend energy on defense. The ball ends in the hand of a wide-open Deron Williams, who calmly sinks a three-pointer to open a 52-36 lead. The U.S. is 7-for-10 from downtown in the first half.
5:39, 2nd: Just seconds after sinking a three-pointer to give the U.S. its largest lead of the game at 45-31, Kobe Bryant picks up his third personal foul and goes to the bench. Dwyane Wade back in for Team USA. The U.S. team has struggled with their outside shooting in this tournament but it's shot 6-fot-9 from beyond the arc today.
7:34, 2nd: Another Spain turnover and it's Kobe Bryant with nobody between him and the basket. The Lakers forward rises toward the rim and throws down a beautiful reverse jam as the flash bulbs pop. Beautiful.
8:30, 2nd: Prince has his fingerprints all over this game. The Pistons forward just threw a 40-foot alley-oop pass to LeBron, who threw down a ferocious one-handed dunk to open the lead to 36-24.
8:49, 2nd: And just like that, Prince gets into the book with a three-pointer in the corner to open the lead to 34-24.
10:00, 2nd: Tayshaun Prince, who could barely get on the court in the Greece game, has entered the game for the Americans. Mike Krzyzewski is tapping into his NBA-laden roster early to exploit Team USA's depth advantage.
End, 1st: A poor first quarter for our blogging efforts but an excellent frame for Team USA. The Americans forced 10 turnovers and scored 31 points to stake a nine-point lead through 10 minutes. Spain switched over to a zone defense late in the quarter to give the U.S. a different look -- and it briefly appeared to work as Spain went on a quick 6-0 run to cut the deficit to seven points. But the U.S. closed the quarter with a Dwyane Wade dunk to re-open the lead to nine.
0:40.0, 1st: Spain rattles off six quick points -- on three straight field goals -- to cut the U.S. lad to 29-22.
1:42, 1st: Chris Paul sucks in a rebound and fires an outlet pass to Wade, who sprints downcourt and deposits a lay-up to open a 29-16 lead for the Americans. Spain calls a timeout to re-organize. LeBron leads all scorers with nine points so far -- but it's Carmelo Anthony's outside shooting which has really impressed in the early stages.
2:31, 1st: Anthony hits a three-pointer to open a 23-15 edge, his second trifecta of the quarter.
3:21, 1st: We've overcome some early technical difficulties early to regain our connection just as Dwyane Wade gets a steal and travels the length of the court for an emphatic dunk to open an 18-13 lead -- the largest lead of the day for the U.S.
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The last meeting in a major tournament between Spain and the United States came in the quarterfinals of the 2004 Olympics, when Team USA briefly quelled the growing mob of doubters with a 102-94 victory over the previously undefeated Spanish. Stephon Marbury set the U.S. national team single-game scoring record with 31 points in the contest, spiriting Team USA to its most significant victory of the tournament. But instead of righting the foundering Team USA ship, the triumph gave the Americans a false sense of confidence going into a semifinal clash with Argentina, where an 89-81 defeat would seal their fate.
But the Spain game may be best remembered for a faux pas committed by the Americans late in the game. With 23 seconds remaining and the U.S. holding a 101-90 lead, Team USA coach Larry Brown called a timeout to settle down his young charges and to organize the press break. But to call timeout late in a game with a double-digit lead is considered a sign of disrespect in European hoops -- and Brown's decision drew vociferous boos from the Athens crowd, stoking the dormant anti-American sentiment in the audience. After the game, Spain coach Mario Pesquera approached Brown in anger and assistant coaches had to separate the two.
The episode provides an interesting if completely unintentional metaphor for the U.S. team's struggle to adjust to the ways and customs of the international game since winning gold at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. But this year's Americans, inspired and tempered by eight years of humiliation on the world stage, appear poised to bring the gold medal stateside once again.