London Finals: Bird, USA Golden Again

Kevin Pelton, | Aug. 11, 2012

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.

Sue Bird hugs Geno Auriemma.
Phil Walter/Getty Images Sports

Bird hugged Head Coach Geno Auriemma, also her coach at UConn, after winning gold a third time.

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.

USA 86, FRANCE 50: Box Score

AUSTRALIA 83, RUSSIA 74: Box Score

Earlier Saturday, the Australian Opals earned their fifth consecutive medal and second bronze in the last five Olympics by beating Russia 83-74. Storm star Lauren Jackson added a bronze to the three silver medals she already owns, giving her and teammate Kristi Harrower four career Olympic medals. Only one basketball player of either gender (the USA's Teresa Edwards, with five) can top that total. Jackson and Harrower joined American Lisa Leslie and two men from the Soviet Union (Sergey Belov and Gennady Volnov) with four medals.

Both veterans delivered big games to help Australia past a feisty Russian team that had won bronze the last two Olympics. In her best game in London, Jackson scored 25 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. While records are unclear, Jackson may have added the career Olympic rebounding record to go with the mark for scoring she set earlier in the week. Harrower, playing her final Olympic game, went out with 21 points and four assists.

The Opals also got a key boost from former Storm center Suzy Batkovic. With star Liz Cambage struggling (she finished with just three points and two rebounds in 12 minutes), Batkovic stepped into the lineup and delivered 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting, plus eight rebounds, before fouling out late in the game.

Behind in the early going, Australia took control during the third quarter and appeared to be cruising before Russia staged a late comeback effort behind Becky Hammon's heroics. The Russians got as close as five with 1:20 to play before Jackson scored a key bucket, and five free throws from Harrower helped seal the victory and the bronze. Hammon had 19 points in defeat.

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