London: The U.S. men's and women's basketball teams made their expected sweep of London gold but it was not an open and shut case for the NBA stars in a tough test in the gold medal game against a polished Spain team. The U.S. men made it look easy through most of the tournament with some extraordinary 'hybrids' - supremely talented players able to thrive in a variety of roles.
A spate of injuries before the final U.S. training camp robbed the American men of some of their most potent pivot men, including Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh.
That left the rough-edged Tyson Chandler as the team's only true centre and a creative mix of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony teaming up with Kevin Love filled the breach with coach Mike Krzyzewski conducting the crew with a most subtle hand.
The scoring prowess of three-point supremo Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant made it relatively smooth, with seven wins taken by an average of 35 points until the Americans came up against a legitimate challenge in the final against Spain.
That tooth and nail fight against an inspired Spanish team with a big advantage in low post height carried into the fourth quarter with only one point separating the Beijing finalists before the Americans prevailed 107-100 to retain their crown.
Credit Krzyzewski, who let some of the strain show when a questioner wondered after the semi-finals whether any coaching was really required, and if all the U.S. had to do was roll the ball out on the court and let their NBA talents do the rest.
"None. None. You got it. Absolutely none," the 65-year-old coach joked with a decided edge. "I'm out every night with my family, drunk as a skunk. Wait 'til you see me tonight. I'll get in at six. You're all invited to come out with me. We just roll out the damn ball. You got it."
In a game of 19 lead changes, the U.S. men denied Spain the gold medal again but it was far from easy.
Bronze medal winners Russia beat Argentina on the strength of a partnership that should bring smiles to the management of the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves.
Russia were led by former NBA All-Star Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved in their bronze medal victory over Argentina. Kirilenko and Shved will be spending next season trying to win for the T-Wolves.
It was a much more predictable golden ride for the U.S. women, who ran their Olympic winning streak to 41 games when they beat France by 36 points for a fifth successive gold.
The depth of the U.S. women's team proved unbeatable, but the tournament also threw a spotlight on some memorable moments and personalities.
There was Celine Dumerc, who led France to an unlikely 7-0 run to the gold game by inspiring her team mates with her infectious spirit and an uncanny ability to sink huge baskets.
There was Liz Cambage of Australia, a 20-year-old centre with enormous promise, becoming the first women to slam dunk in an Olympic game, and her veteran team captain Lauren Jackson who became the all-time Olympic scoring leader.
Afterwards, Cambage was almost apologetic for dribbling the ball down the lane and slamming it through.
U.S. veteran Diana Taurasi was told about Cambage's shyness over the subject.
"Hell, if I could dunk, I'd throw it down on everybody I could," the feisty American said in a remark that typified the cocky attitude of a U.S. team that has not lost an Olympic game in 20 years.
London: The U.S. men's and women's basketball teams made their expected sweep of London gold but it was not an open and shut case for the NBA stars in a tough test in the gold medal game against a polished Spain team.
The U.S. men made it look easy through most of the tournament with some extraordinary 'hybrids' - supremely talented players able to thrive in a variety of roles.