LONDON — Pau Gasol put Sergio Rodriguez on his back for a victory ride off the floor. Marc Gasol rumbled into the stands to hug anyone he could get his hands on, and his teammates embraced members of their country’s royal family.
This is how it was supposed to be.
Spain will play for basketball gold.
Jose Calderon scored 14 points — 12 in the second half — and Pau Gasol added 16 as Spain rallied after trailing at halftime for a 67-59 win in the men’s Olympic basketball tournament over Russia on Friday, setting up a potential second straight final against the U.S.
The Spaniards hopes for gold nearly dried up. They trailed by 13 in the first quarter and 11 at the half before the defending silver medalists dug down and showed why they’re the world’s No. 2-ranked team. Spain shot just 21 percent in the opening half, but recovered to keep alive hopes of winning a first Olympic gold medal.
Sasha Kaun scored 14 points and Andrei Kirilenko, playing with a leg injury, added 10 for Russia.
The U.S. and Argentina squared off in the second semifinal game Friday night with the winner to meet Spain in the gold medal game on Sunday.
Spain figured to be among the last teams standing, but for nearly 30 minutes it appeared a roster loaded with NBA talent and some of the game’s most experienced international players would be going home disappointed.
Their shots weren’t falling, and with Russia playing disciplined and relaxed, the Spaniards were in serious trouble.
But Calderon, who plays for the Toronto Raptors, ignited his countrymen with three 3-pointers in the second half and Spain got a big lift off the bench from reserve Felipe Reyes.
Spain, which lost to Russia in pool play, awakened in the third quarter and pulled within three on Pau Gasol’s 3-pointer, a shot he celebrated by flashing three fingers on both hands. Following a turnover by Russia, the Los Angeles Lakers star then hammered home a rebound to bring Spain within 44-43.
Calderon then ended the period with a 3-pointer as Spain caught Russia at 46-all entering the fourth.
Calderon’s 3 with 7:22 left gave Spain its first lead and he hit another long-range jumper to give Spain a 58-50 lead with 5:11 remaining.
Meanwhile, the Russians fell apart. After making just three turnovers in the first half, they had eight in the first 15 minutes of the second half, sloppiness that would haunt them.
And when Marc Gasol powered down low for a layup and was fouled, Spain’s lead had grown to 10 and the bruising center let out a scream that could be heard back in Madrid.
His brother then punctuated the win with a dunk, sending Spain’s fans into their familiar chants of “Ole, ole, ole.”
Spain, which has not played up to its standards in England, will play for gold after all.
Four years ago in Beijing, Spain pushed the U.S. deep into the fourth before losing 118-107 and settling for silver. All the Spaniards wanted was another shot at the Americans and they may get it.
Unlike in the preliminary round, Russia didn’t have to come back from a huge deficit. Spain went up 20-2 when the teams met previously before the Russians rallied for a win that legitimized them as a medal contender after mostly being overlooked in the weeks leading into London.
This time, Russia was the one building a big, early lead, getting consecutive 3-pointers from Sergei Monia in a 10-0 run to take a 27-14 lead over Spain, which couldn’t get anything going on offense.
With their American-born coach David Blattt shouting instructions from the sideline, Russia’s defense packed the lane and frustrated the Gasol brothers, neither of whom could get off a shot without two and sometimes three defenders nearby. Spain’s guards weren’t able to loosen things up as Navarro and Calderon went a combined 0 for 6 in the half.
The Spaniards couldn’t throw the ball into the Mediterranean in the first quarter, going 3 of 15 from the floor and scoring just nine points. The period ended with Pau Gasol missing an easy one underneath, and when his shot rolled off the rim, Spanish coach Sergio Scariolo shook his head in disbelief.
But when the game ended Scariolo and his assistants squeezed each other tight as Spain’s players formed a circle, dancing around the floor.