The end of a dream

Pau Gasol's National Team falls into the quarterfinals without reaching eight thousand of beating the USA in some Games. An immense Ricky, 38 points, was not enough.


Spain leaves the Games. That and so much more. A 20-year cycle is closed led by Pau Gasol, one of the greatest athletes that the country has produced. And it's time to wake up from a dream. The images of Pau at the 2006 World Cup, the 2008 or 2012 Games, Lille at the 2015 Eurobasket, will always accompany the generation that had the immense fortune to enjoy it. Gasol will always leave with that thorn of not having been able to open that last door. His sad face, sitting on the bench where he lived the entire second half, to the right of his brother Marc and just ahead of Rudy, is not the image he dreamed of for goodbye. But that is the reality of basketball, and of sport. And that also gives it a poetic goodbye from Pau. Not all dreams are achieved. And the United States has resisted this generation.

In Saitama, where he was world champion in 2006, Spain's dream of being Olympic gold has vanished. Again, he lacked one more step to reach the United States, which with a sublime Kevin Durant reached the semifinals. Ricky Rubio, the leader that remains for this Selection now that Pau is leaving and, probably Marc and Rudy, did everything possible to prevent it. Big player, he carried the team's scoring weight and scored a stratospheric 38 points. But they weren't enough to force at least a tight finish against the Olympic champions in the last three editions.

From the beginning, Ricky Rubio kept Spain afloat in the first quarter that started very lazy with the score. So much so that the United States, with Durant's silk shots, soon left to a disturbing 10-17. Cold, and perhaps still with the body rusted by the game against Slovenia, Spain had a hard time carburizing. Ricky gave him the rhythm with a streak of baskets that allowed Spain to tie and even take the lead thanks to the first two baskets of Sergio Llull (21-19) .

Then came the golden minutes of Spain, with Chacho touched by the muses and an extraordinary appearance by Willy, who scored six points and, above all, grabbed six rebounds and put up three blocks that also allowed Spain to run, force fouls and arrive easy to bonus. Spain flew up to a difference of ten points (39-29). Claver also hurt the Americans with his baskets under the rim and offensive rebounds. But Kevin Durant plugged in the machine and put it on full power for two minutes and left the game even at half-time (43-43). In those minutes there could be a certain key for the game to arrive more evenly at the end, but Spain did not play 'the other basketball'. Maybe it would have helped.

Draymond Green is the shaman of Team USA. He gathers his teammates at halftime. He lectures them, tells them what to do. But the one who was lit up and speaking on the track was Kevin Durant. He put the cross behind the triple line and started to make a difference. Three triples and a counterattack culminated by Booker sent the game to a 47-58 that already seemed insurmountable, even more so when the rent was stretched to 16 (49-65). One more burst of pride from Ricky, whom Scariolo put on the court with a great Sergio Rodríguez to free him from base obligations, brought Spain a little closer before the end of the third quarter to maintain, even if it was, a thread of hope. With a 14-4 run, Spain approached 63-69 with tremendous pride.

Garuba, who participated much better than against Slovenia, got to bring Spain closer to four points but Lillard, who took command while Durant rested, and Tatum put things back in place (66-81). Scariolo tried everything. Also go down to the field of the United States, play without pivots, with Garuba as inside. Spain was relatively surprising to the United States with that low center of gravity, which when it knew where the film was going, entered the area as it wanted and closed the game.In the immense emptiness of the stands, and when the final horn sounded, Pau Gasol Sáez got up to greet the rivals sportingly. This time, Pau was not exhausted as in Beijing, nor given up after a memorable performance as in London. This time, in a training shirt, he was being aware that he had to go down to earth. The dream is over. In a few years he will admit that he could never beat the United States, but he will also be aware of how great it has been. From Saitama, where he touched the sky in 2006, to another.

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