The following story is attributed to Kevin Pelton, StormBasketball.com.
Sue Bird and the USA women are golden again. The USA extended its domination of women’s basketball competition at the Olympics to two decades, winning a fifth consecutive gold medal by crushing France in Saturday’s final at London’s North Greenwich Arena, 86-50. The win was the 41st in a row for the U.S. women in Olympic play, a streak that dates back to 1992. That was the last time the USA was unable to bring home gold.
There were a few anxious moments during the final. The U.S. women came out tight and struggled offensively before halftime, rushing shots and turning the ball over in uncharacteristic fashion. Yet the USA’s defense never wavered, and when the team’s execution came together in the second half, the French team never stood a chance. A 19-1 run during the third quarter extended a 10-point advantage to 29 and effectively ended France’s hopes of pulling the upset.
The USA held its opponents, unbeaten in London en route to the gold-medal game, to 28.1 percent shooting and forced more turnovers (21) than made baskets. During the third quarter, France went more than eight minutes without a field goal.
The defensive effort started with Diana Taurasi’s lockdown performance against French guard Celine Dumerc, who entered the game averaging 15.1 points on nearly 60 percent shooting both overall and from three-point range. As the leader of a team effort focused on taking Dumerc away, Taurasi helped hold her opposing number to eight points on 2-of-10 shooting from the field, including 0-of-5 beyond the arc.
WNBA veterans Sandrine Gruda and Edwige Lawson-Wade scored 12 points apiece, but France lacked the depth offensively to keep up with the USA, which saw all 12 players score. Candace Parker led the attack with a brilliant effort, which nearly gave her a double-double by halftime. She finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds, both game highs.
Bird scored 11 points, giving her back-to-back double-figure scoring efforts after she had never reached double figures in an Olympic game before Thursday. Bird made five of her seven shot attempts, including her only three, and handed out three assists in 24 minutes.
By receiving her third gold medal, Bird – along with teammates Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi – joined elite company. The three are now among eight women in Olympic history with at least three gold medals.