SAITAMA, Japan —
They were down, then they were up and then it was close again, the U.S. men’s basketball team violently swinging between dominance and docility.
For the last month, it’s defined their play, the product of a less-than-ideal roster and little time together. With low stakes, the losses here and there could be justified as part of a process.
But facing Spain on Tuesday in their first elimination game, the Americans and their unshakable traits made it clear that the next week is going to be a wild ride.
The U.S. overcame a double-digit deficit and then nearly blew a double-digit lead before beating Spain 95-81.
Kevin Durant, the program’s all-time leading scorer in Olympics competition, had 29 points, while four others scored at least 10.
Ricky Rubio capped his amazing tournament by scoring 38, nearly delivering Spain to the semifinals by himself. Marc and Pau Gasol, likely playing together internationally for the final time, were held scoreless.
The U.S. will play the winner of Australia vs. Argentina in the semifinals Thursday.