The U.S. Olympic men's basketball team is still a little better than Spain.
One more win and the Americans are again the best in the world.
The U.S. advanced to its third straight gold-medal game, beating Spain 82-76 on Friday in another tight matchup between the teams that met in the last two championship games.
Klay Thompson scored 22 points for the Americans, who will play Serbia on Sunday for their third consecutive Olympic title.
The U.S. was just good enough again against Spain, winning a much different game than the all-offense matchups that decided the last two gold-medal games. This one featured several technical fouls and neither team got into an offensive flow.
It was the lowest-scoring game for the Americans in the Olympics since the 2004 semifinals, when they managed 81 in a loss to Argentina.
But DeAndre Jordan made his presence felt in the middle with 16 rebounds and four blocked shots to go with his nine points.
Kevin Durant added 14 points on the day he moved past LeBron James into second place on the U.S. Olympic career scoring list. Kyrie Irving had 13 for the U.S.
Pau Gasol scored 23 points for Spain, which made it tough on the Americans for the third straight Olympics, but again had to settle for coming close against the world's No. 1 team.
The Americans pulled away to win 118-107 in 2008 and held on for a 107-100 victory in London. Those were all-action contests, but the defenses made their mark in this one. Spain shot just 39 percent and couldn't get any consistent option other than Gasol, who played with a wrap covering his sore right calf.
It was the kind of defense the Americans thought they could play but hadn't much in the tournament. Serbia and France both surpassed 90 points against them and Australia scored 88, as the team with 10 Olympic newcomers took longer than hoped in grasping international offenses.
This time they contained a team that was as explosive as themselves over the last four games, as Spain had averaged 97.3 points and won by more than 25 per game after dropping its first two in Brazil.
The Americans finally built a comfortable lead when they opened the fourth quarter with six straight points to go ahead 72-57. But Spain was able to keep the gap from getting any bigger and chipped away at it in the final minutes, the margin ending up smaller than in the previous matchups.
Also Friday, Milos Teodosic scored 22 points as Serbia, which pushed the star-studded U.S. team to the final seconds before losing earlier in the Rio Games, moved into the Olympic gold-medal game against the Americans with a shockingly easy 87-61 semifinal win over Australia.
Stefan Markovic scored 14 and Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets had 11 rebounds for the Serbs, who will get another crack at the U.S. on Sunday. The two-time defending titlists held off Spain 82-76 to advance.
Serbia's win guaranteed its first Olympic medal in men's basketball since gaining independence in 2006.
The Aussies, too, were hoping to play the U.S. again, but they scored just 5 points in the first quarter and will have to beat Spain for their first Top 3 finish.
With five NBA players, Australia brought its most talented team ever to Brazil. But the Aussies couldn't overcome their horrendous start.