Flashback: Barkley Scores 20, The USA Finishes Pool Play 5-0
Closing out its pool play against host Spain, the U.S. scored a convincing 122-81 victory. But more significant to the USA team than its win was the return to action of Magic Johnson and John Stockton. Johnson, who had missed the two prior games because of a knee injury, played nine minutes, and Stockton, who had not played since breaking his right fibula in the second game of the Tournament of the Americas, scored four points in six minutes of action.
"I felt tremendous excitement at getting the opportunity to get on the floor for the Olympic Games," Stockton said. "It's something I've dreamt about all my life. Along with that, I guess I felt quite a bit apprehension about how my leg would respond and whether I would actually be able to do anything out there, or just stand in a corner and let the game go around me.
"I was thrilled with the way it worked out. I was able to get up and down the court a little bit, and I felt I didn't hurt the team anyway, so I'm very, very pleased and excited to have done that."
"When I first went out, I favored the knee for a minute," admitted Magic. "I was a little uncertain. After that, it was okay."
The script for this game was similar to the USA's other games. Starting slowly, the U.S. only led 20-15 with a little less than 12 minutes to play in the first half, then outscored Spain 11-3 to take command, 31-18. By half the USA's lead had been expanded to 30, and in the second half the U.S. continued to cruise, posting an 122- 81 win.
Seven U.S. men scored in double figures and 11 of the 12 U.S. players scored. Charles Barkley led the team with 20 points, while Clyde Drexler added 17, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin each accounted for 14 more. Patrick Ewing and Karl Malone led the USA's rebounding efforts each with 10. Hitting 47.8% (11-23 three-point field goals) from 3-point range, the U.S. shot 53.8% overall from the floor.
"When you're 30 points up on the scoreboard, it's difficult to concentrate and to maintain the advantage. However, I think we're keeping our concentration." said Magic.
"Everybody was looking forward to playing against the USA team," said Spain guard Jose Biriukov. "It was like a dream come true. The best players in the world are on the American Olympic team. To play against them is a difficult thing to describe. You feel a bit of everything - happy, excited and nervous. The result is the least important thing as they are invincible."
"To play against the USA is an important training session for us to know where we are in relation to them in terms of standard of play. This was the best Spanish team we could put together. The USA could form 10 different teams and they would be better than us," said Spain assistant coach Josep Lluis.
With the win, the USA finished its pool competition 5-0 and as expected on top of its pool standings. Next up, the quarterfinals and the pressure of knowing one slip and gold medal hopes would be gone.
"We realize the next three games are what really matters," explained Malone. "It's just like going to the NBA playoffs. You just hope you'll get there. I don't know if you could say we are bored, but we are ready for the 'playoffs' to start."