Manu Fernandez/Associated Press
BARCELONA, Spain – The question sounded more like a concession.
The U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team had come to Barcelona and put a 100-78 beating on Spain, the country given the best chance of stopping the Americans’ bid for a second consecutive gold medal. It was such a dominating performance over the final three quarters Tuesday that it was hard to imagine what could be much different if the teams meet again in London.
So, one Spanish journalist asked Chris Paul, is this U.S. team invincible?
“No,” Paul said. “I mean, I wish we were. We’d get to live a long time.”
OK, so they’re not immortal, either.
What the Americans have, after a five-game exhibition schedule, is a team that is unbeaten, though not unbeatable. The Americans have a weakness that can be exploited, though also the ability to turn it into a strength.
They head to London as the clear favorites and maybe among the few who believe winning gold again will require much more than just showing up.
“I think for us, it’s about going out there and playing the right way and worrying about us,” Paul said. “We go into games, fortunately we know that we’re probably going to be the most talented team there, but that doesn’t always win games for you.”
It worked during this tour, which started nearly three weeks ago in Las Vegas and ended with an off day Wednesday in Barcelona. The U.S. will fly to London today, then will play its Olympic opener Sunday against France.
Games against overmatched Britain and the Dominican Republic weren’t competitive, but the Americans were challenged at times during the three contests against medal contenders:
Brazil had a 10-point lead after one quarter before the U.S. won by 11.
Argentina cut a 20-point deficit to four in the final minutes of the Americans’ 86-80 victory here Sunday.
And Spain was ahead by nine points in the opening period before the U.S. got the game under control.
“We got better. We got better, and at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about,” LeBron James said of the pre-Olympic schedule. “We’ve got to continue to improve, and it was a good test.”
Spain head basketball coach Sergio Scariolo said the Spanish would be “more ready than (Tuesday night)” if the teams meet again in London.