The first time Team USA and Serbia met, during group play, the game was close. On that day, the Americans eked out a three point 86-83 win and many were wondering if it would be possible to take one from the latest iteration of the “Dream Team.”
What a quaint notion.
Yesterday, in the Olympic men’s basketball gold medal game — a rematch of USA vs. Serbia — the outcome was far different. America smashed its way to an easy 96-66 victory, powered by a cool 30 points from Kevin Durant. As with almost all of Team USA’s games, it was not particularly competitive. It’s one thing to go shot-for-shot with some of the best basketball players in the world, but once guys like Paul George, Durant and DeAndre Jordan start flexing their defensive muscles, well, good luck to you.
The story here, such as it is, is the role our favourite Raptors played in Team USA’s success. Yes, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are now gold medal winners. That’s worth celebrating (even as Canadians).
For DeRozan, just moving into his prime, coming from some experience within the USA’s basketball program, and playing in a position with slightly less depth, the Olympics are something he could probably looking forward to again in four years. (Where, presumably, the USA will win another gold.) It seems likely he’ll play in some FIBA tournaments as well. DeRozan may not have played heavy minutes in Rio, but he’s the kind of serviceable, good team guy you’d want to have around.
Lowry, meanwhile, has got to be feeling pretty damn good right now. First, he’s the second oldest guy on the team (behind Carmelo Anthony). Second, he plays at easily the most loaded position for Team USA. (I mean, Chris Paul probably isn’t coming back, but Steph Curry would work the Olympics like a speed bag, and that’s to say nothing of Damian Lillard or John Wall or... you get my point.) Third, and this may be my Toronto bias showing, but it did feel lightly impossible that the head honchos with Team USA would look to the Raptors for not one, but two (!) players. It’s a nice nod, however indirect, to the progress Lowry (and DeRozan) have made as part of the team here in Toronto. Lowry earned his spot on the team, but if pressed I suspect he would admit he did not foresee this particularly opportunity coming.
Also, it bears mentioning: Lowry was part of the key lineup for Team USA. He, along with Jimmy Butler, Durant, George and DeMarcus Cousins (or Jordan), could lay down an absolute wallop on any team they went up against given their collective smothering defensive abilities and potent scoring touch. For a team that only had one other PG (in Kyrie Irving, who is a different type of player), it’s easy to feel some pride as a Raptors fan.
Lowry got the job done. DeRozan filled his role admirably. Team USA, as expected, won the gold medal in Rio. Congrats, guys.
Now, good lord, get back to Toronto and get some rest.