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“I am disappointed, but on the other side I’m very proud how of the we competed, how we played,” Gasol said. “We fought for 40 minutes. I am proud of having another Olympic medal around my neck.

“It’s disappointing because I thought we had our chance. We were right there pretty much the entire game. We let them get away in the fourth and we couldn’t get back.”

It was the 14th gold medal for the Americans, who lost at least five players who might have been on the team when Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Derrick Rose had to pull out with injuries and Blake Griffin was hurt in training camp.

Along the way, they showed they could be vulnerable during their exhibition schedule, falling into early holes against Brazil and Spain, having to hold on against Argentina.

Any concerns once they arrived in London seemed to be wiped away as quickly as the way the Americans play.

They were tested only once, beating Lithuania 99-94, and the statistics revealed a tournament that was more varsity against junior varsity than best in the world against each other. The Americans came in leading the tournament in eight statistical categories, with laughably lopsided advantages in points off turnovers (198-77) and fast-break points (175-55).

James didn’t seem too concerned Sunday, laughing his way through warmups, even when he badly botched a dunk.

He and the Americans would soon realize this one wasn’t going to be all fun and games.

They used an 18-4 run to wipe out their early five-point deficit and made seven 3-pointers in the first quarter, yet led by only eight points. Spain then opened the second period with a 12-2 burst, taking a 39-37 lead on a 3-pointer by Sergio Rodriguez.

Spain, long considered a finesse team, came to fight in this one, Rodriguez delivering a blow to Tyson Chandler’s ribs while setting a pick that led to technical fouls on both players.

Both teams grew frustrated with the officiating — Spain in particular when Marc Gasol was called for his fourth foul while going for a rebound with 5:29 remaining in the first half. The Spanish scored their final seven points on free throws, cutting the U.S. lead to 59-58.

Though a gold-medal rematch was expected before the Olympics, the Spanish struggled in London, losing twice in the preliminary round and saying that just getting to the gold medal game was an accomplishment given some injuries they faced. The Americans waved off Spain’s claims of being tired and hurt, and, sure enough, the Spanish team they expected showed up in the final, believing they could pull it off.

“Of course we did. We wouldn’t be playing if we didn’t think we had a chance,” Marc Gasol said. “Give them a lot of credit. They made a lot of shots — tough shots. They have so many options, great players and they made shots.”

Size was always the Americans’ biggest obstacle, and the 7-foot-1 Pau Gasol dominated them to start the second half, scoring Spain’s first 13 points to give them a 71-70 lead at the midpoint of the third quarter. Serge Ibaka at 6-10 also hurt the U.S. inside, and the Americans led only 83-82 heading into the fourth.

Though this was expected to be the final international game for Krzyzewski and Bryant, the U.S. will apparently still be able to bring its best to the next Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. Though the NBA has said it might prefer an under-23 age limit for the Olympics, FIBA’s secretary general said Saturday he doesn’t see any changes being proposed in time for 2016.

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