If you want to see basketball played brilliantly, watch a video of the second quarter of the U.S.-Serbia game. It was the gold medal game and Serbia, having come close to beating the Americans earlier in the Olympics, was anything but a pushover.

This time, the U.S. outscored the Serbs 33-14 in that pivotal quarter. Four members of the second team were on the floor along with one starter, Kevin Durant. The four were big names, but not the biggest: Paul George, Jimmy Butler, De Marcus Cousins, and Kyle Lowry.

They played aggressive defense, which set up the offense. The American team unleashed a devastating transition game and scored almost at will before the Serbs could set up their defense. The Serbian team was helpless against the onslaught, especially when Durant stopped and popped from the top of the 3-point line. George ran rings around the Serbs. Cousins overpowered them inside. Lowry didn’t shoot well, but as point guard he was far better than the starter, Kyrie Irving, who dribbled too much and passed too little.

Paul George, by the way, was the most consistent player for the U.S. He's everything a basketball player should be. He plays both ends. He runs the court. He drives, hits the 3 and makes his free throws. He's a great defensive player. He's an example of how a basketball player can get better with age and experience. Playing against stronger competition helps. George was a no-name from Fresno State when he came into the NBA. Now, he's a star.

George and his friends were at their best against the good teams, the ones with an outside chance of beating the Americans: Serbia, Spain, Argentina, Australia, and France. Based on how well the Australians played against the U.S., they're team to watch in 2020. How the U.S. did against the bad teams didn't matter. Those games weren't competitive.

There were complaints about the difficulty the U.S. had in disposing of the better teams. The answer from some sportswriters was that they won every game, didn't they? What more do you want? End of argument.

But going unbeaten and winning the gold are not the way to rate the U.S. team. Rather its strength should be judged in comparison with other American basketball teams in the Olympics. By this standard, the 2016 team doesn't rank very high. But consider the reason – that is, the players who didn't come, either by choice or because of a lingering injuries. You could put together a great U.S. team of just the no-shows. Their starting lineup: LeBron James, Steph Curry, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, and Al Horford.

Nobody will ever match the Dream Team of 1992. It won every game by an average of 43 points. The most memorable play was by Charles Barkley when he shoved aside a player from Angola, drove the court and dunked. The Angolan was thrilled to have been physically banged by Barkley.

Among the other Americans on the Dream Team were Michael Jordan, Karl "The Mailman" Malone, Scottie Pippin, Patrick Ewing, David "The Admiral" Robinson, Magic Johnson, John Stockton, and Larry Bird. In a video to promote the team, Barkley described himself as a "bad dog." My wife and I named the dog we'd just gotten Barkley.

I'd put this year's team a bit behind the 2008 and 2012 teams, the Lebron teams. The foreign competition had vastly improved in those years. But the U.S. won easily and I credit LeBron. With him on the team, you don't need a coach. During timeouts, he often did the talking and the players paid attention, even Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony.

This was Melo's fourth Olympics. He was a starter but didn't play particularly well. But he got a third gold medal and deserved it. He'd suffered in 2004, when the U.S. didn't win the gold medal. Interviewed after the final game on Sunday, he had to stop speaking – this was on live TV -- and wait for his emotions to steady.

I'm old enough to have watched the final game in 1972, when the U.S. played the Soviet Union. Doug Collins, the best of the basketball analysts on TV these days, was a star for the U.S. He made two free throws with a second to go to win the game by one point. There wasn't time for the Soviets to score. But the they whined that the clock should have had 3 seconds on it. They were wrong, but the weak-kneed referees went along. The Soviets scored and won. And the U.S. team was cheated out of the gold.

Collins, the analyst at the American games in Rio, was asked how painful the memory of that game is today. Not so bad, he said, except when he watches an American team step up on the riser and stand as the Star Spangled Banner is played. That's when it hurts, Collins said.

Ever been to a NBA game? If you do, you'll notice that most of the players don't put their right hand over their heart during the national anthem. OK, some of them aren't Americans. In Rio on Sunday, every American player had his hand over his heart. They had represented their country proudly and well.