The Redeem Team is one step away from returning the United States to its rightful place of Olympic champion. A 40 minute tussle with Spain is all that stands in their way. Fortunately the game is late at night in the aptly monikered Mountain Time Zone and that will make it ripe for a little live blogging.

Will the US get the job done, or will it be a fourth straight disappointing finish in international competition? I will track the developments minute by minute and make sure you leave your thoughts in the comments.

12:02 AM: Right now NBC is warming us up for the basketball game with some singles ping pong. Some people may get pumped up for a big game sitting in a blacked out crowded arena with blaring music and pyrotechnics exploding, but give men’s singles ping pong any time…

12:08 AM: Argentina, playing without Emanuel David Ginobili, easily dispatched of Lithuania 87-75 for the bronze medal. Linas Kleiza ended his Olympic experience on a down note with five points on 1/5 shooting in just under 17 minutes. LK managed to not grab a rebound, notch an assist, nor did he pick up a steal or block a shot. Of course, he had no turnovers either so he has that going for him…which is nice.

12:18 AM: This might be a good time to share a couple of my thoughts about the Olympics. I am concerned about the indoor volleyball team’s self esteem. Not since Stuart Smalley have we seen individuals so in need of affirmation where they hug each other after every single point. There is no more ridiculous event than the race walking. We do not need an event that is dumbed down for those who are not athletic enough to run. Race walking is like playing basketball on six foot rims. And as far as the issue of having underage gymnasts competing for China I have the solution. We need to raid their families homes and demand to see the pictures from their sixteenth birthday parties. Anyone can produce a fake birth certificate. Let’s see them try to conjure up some birthday pictures on the spot.

12:26 AM: Here are my keys to the game. They are the same as every other game for this team. Play hard on defense, do not settle for threes early in the shot clock and respect the opposing team. Team USA has a large advantage in talent and athleticism. If they just do their job and play hard, this game really should not be close.

12:30 AM: Say what you want about the international game, it is nice to know that this game will probably be over in an hour and 45 minutes. That is a nice change from the three hour plus NBA finals games.

12:32 AM: LeBron, wearing his “Gold Medal Shoes”, puts the US up 3-0.

12:33 AM: No one on the Spanish roster can handle Dwight Howard in the paint. He is one for one on offensive rebounds.

12:34 AM: Pau Gasol just beat Kobe down the floor for a fast break dunk to put Spain up 5-4.

12:35 AM: The US has a tendency to pick up cheap fouls quickly and allow their opponents into the bonus early in quarters. Just over two minutes into the game the US has three fouls and LeBron has two of them.

12:36 AM: Melo hits a three from the right wing to put the US up 9-7.

12:38 AM: Kobe fouls Juan Carlos Navarro 27 feet from the rim to give three free throws and to put Spain in the bonus with over six minutes left in the first quarter.

12:39 AM: Spain is playing with a lot of confidence and Kobe and LeBron are on the bench with two fouls. Wade and Melo are going to have to pick up the offensive slack.

12:40 AM: Wade has been in the game for about a minute and has five points on two layups and a free throw. I would consider that picking up the slack.

12:42 AM: Spain is the second deepest team in the tournament, but already without Jose Calderon, Ricky Rubio has left the game with an injured finger.

12:44 AM: The US is doing a great job of attacking the rim. As long as they keep playing aggressively like that they should be fine.

12:45 AM: A very nice high pick and roll between Bosh and Deron Williams results in two made free throws for Bosh and a tie game at 22 all.

12:46 AM: We talk about team speed in football, but Team USA has tremendous team speed. Wade went for a steal tried to chase the ball down towards the US end of the floor and after Spain retrieved the ball Wade was able to get back in the play to tip it away eventually resulting in a 24 second shot clo
ck violation.

12:48 AM: Even though Spain has switched to zone, the US is still pounding the ball in the paint as Prince gets a lay in.

12:51 AM: One of Team USA‘s problems have been poor free throw shooting. So far the US has shot 9-10 and they have a six point lead 33-27.

12:53 AM: Dwyane Wade has been the key player in this game. Not only has he been active on defense, but he has posted 13 big points and would have had 15 if he did not fumble the ball out of bounds on a break away.

12:56 AM: Melo, guarding Marc Gasol, takes an elbow to the chops and draws an offensive foul for the second game in a row. Melo has done a good job of taking a beating in the paint. I think he enjoys not having to move his feet on the perimeter, but the beating he is taking down low will probably make him long for the days of losing Luke Walton away from the ball while giving up a three pointer.

12:59 AM: Kobe hits a three and makes a break away dunk to put the US up 12, 43-31.

1:00 AM: Melo gets shoved under the rim, or actually into the row of photographers, on one end by Marc Gasol and gives up an offensive rebound, but he comes back and hits a three from the corner.

1:02 AM: The US seemed like they were ready to build up a nice lead, but could not take advantage of some open shots and Spain is still down only eight.

1:04 AM: Look out Team USA, Pau is getting frustrated…when Pau gets frustrated, well, he just looks like a whiny little girl.

1:05 AM: Half way through the second quarter Spain has actually shot three more free throws than the US. Fouls are keeping Spain in the game at this point.

1:07 AM: Wade makes his third steal and scores on a break away dunk. He looks as fast as anyone I have seen on the basketball court. Anyone who thinks Miami is going to miss the playoffs again, or even barely make it in as the seventh or eighth seed next season is absolutely high.

1:09 AM: Wade hits his second three and has 18 points in only eight minutes. Dang.

1:10 AM: After getting up by 14, Rudy Fernandez scores five quick points to get the lead back down to only nine, 58-49.

1:12 AM: Spain is being overshadowed by the US, and they are down by 12 at the moment, but they are playing great basketball. You have to believe that they are taking advantage of having absolutely no pressure on them. Rudy Fernandez hits another three, this one off balance, to cut the lead back down to nine, 63-54.

1:14 AM: By the way, Melo has two fouls and is on the bench alongside the other two foul players, LeBron, Howard and Kobe.

1:16 AM: As Doug Collins has pointed out, the US defense is not very good right now and if you remember the first key to the game, it was playing tough D. If they do not pick it up on D, Spain just might steal this game. By the way, JCN is going to the line with the chance to cut the US lead to five.

1:18 AM: I have a few butterflies floating around in my basket right now…this game is a little too close at this point as Chris Paul puts the lead back up to eight, 69-61 after two free throws.

1:19 AM: After forcing another turnover on Spain‘s last possession Wade misses a three at the buzzer and the teams go into the locker room with the US up 69-61.

1:22 AM: The halftime stats show that this game is even closer than the score indicates. Both teams are shooting over 60% from the floor. Spain is 18-21 from the free throw line and the US is 17-20. The reason the US is ahead right now is they have made three more threes, eight to five, and have four fewer turnovers.

You have to hope that, as we saw against Argentina, once all the players who were held out of the end of the first half with two fouls, LeBron, Kobe, Melo and Howard, can come back in the game and push the US over the top. Actually at halftime this game reminds me a great deal of the semifinal game with Argentina.

Well, we are 20 minutes away from either the return of the gold to the United States of America or a devastating and inexplicable loss. Knowing what is on the line, I think we will
see a much better defensive effort from the US in the second half and another relatively easy win (15-20 point margin).

1:34 AM: By the way, I did not say this earlier, but I do not like the fact that LeBron has his own pair of gold medal shoes.

1:35 AM: The US turns the ball over twice in a row to star the second half including a horrible entry pass from Melo to Howard. They do not seem like they are enjoying this game right now.

1:36 AM: Kobe blows a three on one by being far too fancy. Not good.

1:37 AM: No increase in defensive intensity as of yet. The lead is only six, 71-65.

1:39 AM: An amazing play by Melo to push his way past Marc Gasol, tip in another missed free throw by Howard, and get fouled. Sadly, Melo misses the free throw.

1:41 AM: I am having some weird formatting issues, kind of like the US on defense.

1:43 AM: Spain is back in the zone and Melo misses an open three. I am definitely very nervous.

1:44 AM: The US is no longer attacking the rim. Too many threes. Even though Spain is playing great, they are still down four.

1:45 AM: Melo has left the game after hitting his hand on the backboard on a break away lay up.

1:46 AM: The US defense is as porous as Sponge Bob Square Pants.

1:47 AM: Marc Gasol is not going to be a good, or even decent NBA player.

1:48 AM: Wade may have made his first three threes, but he has missed his last three including a brick he just threw up under pressure. I do not want to see any more threes from Wade.

1:49 AM: The US is finally going inside against this zone. The result is two fouls and three made free throws.

1:50 AM: Wade makes a nice baseline turn around in transition to put he US back up 10. Spain is struggling a little bit.

1:52 AM: There is no one cutting for the US on offense against the Spanish zone.

1:54 AM: After Spain once again cuts it to eight, Melo hits a huge three to put the US back up eleven.

1:55 AM: Why on earth can none of our guards stay in between JCN and the basket? Can someone please drop their butt and dig in on defense?

1:56 AM: The US is up nine, 91-82, heading into the fourth quarter. It sure seems like Spain is closer than that though. I do not think this team blows this lead, but you never ever know.

1:59 AM: Kobe just did what Kobe does as he held the ball and then took a horrible three. Pass the ball moron!

2:00 AM: As the clock passes two, Spain is only down two after a bad three attempt by Melo and a made three by Rudy Fernandez.

2:02 AM: Kobe takes an absolutely horrible shot, but it ends up going in. Kobe is getting on my nerves.

2:03 AM: After Kobe scores up another three on two fast break, he manages to kick the ball out to Deron Williams who hits the three to put the US back up seven.

2:07 AM: The wheels are coming off the live blog as I have had to fix some weird decisions by the computer. Kobe is still taking horrible shots and Spain is hanging in just close enough to make things frightening. US is up 104-95 with four minutes left.

2:09 AM: Howard takes a horrible foul on Gasol instead of just making Pau shoot over him. Spain has gone big with both Gasols on the floor at the same time. US will have to rebound and guard the paint.

2:11 AM: The refs have officially decided to let everything go…until Kobe hits a three and the refs call a touch foul on Rudy Fernandez, which is his fifth foul. Could that have been a make up call for Marc Gasol throwing Bosh down at the other end of the floor?

2:12 AM: Kobe completes the four point play to put the US back up nine.

2:13 AM: Team USA‘s defense could not be worse. They cannot keep anyone out of the paint. They are not rotating and they are in danger of losing this game.

2:14 AM: After a three by Jiminez of Spain to cut the lead to four, Wade answers at the other end to push it back up to seven. Timeout Spain. 111-104 with 2:02 left.

2:16 AM: I am officially tired of Spain not going away.

2:17 AM: Kobe finally goes to the rim and hits a runner to put the US up by eight. The US gets a stop and has the ball, up by eight with less than a minute left.

2:18 AM: Chris Paul makes two free throws to push the lead up to ten with 40 seconds left.

2:19 AM: Spain is done. Intentional foul followed by a technical foul. Doug Collins is singing the praises of Kobe, and he did make a couple of big shots, but he took a lot of bad ones too.

2:20 AM: Carmelo has not played at all down the stretch, but he is still cheering and supporting the team from the bench. He has done everything that Team USA has asked of him and if he can bring the same attitude into the season with the Nuggets it will only mean good things for Denver.

2:22 AM: The Redeem Team has done it. The United States is the 2008 Olympic Champions.

2:23 AM: The celebration is on. Hugs, jumping, high fives. As much as I would have liked to see another 37 point rout, it is fitting that the US had to struggle to put Spain away. The US has established a new blue print for how to put together a team that not only can, but will beat the best the rest of the world has to offer.

It is a testament to how well this team was put together and how talented they are that they could beat a Spanish team that played better than anyone could have expected of them, while Team USA played probably a well below average game, especially on defense, yet the gold medal is coming back to the United States.

Congratulations to all the players on the Redeem Team and thank you for all your work to put the United States back on top of the basketball world.