Well, it wouldn't have been one if they had lost.
Playing Thursday exactly 38 years to the day after the controversial loss to the Soviet Union in the 1972 Olympics, the Americans fell behind Russia by five points in the second quarter. But they came back for an 89-79 win at the Sinan Erdem Dome to advance to a FIBA World Championship semifinal Saturday against Lithuania.
Forward Kevin Durant led the Americans with 33 points, two shy of Carmelo Anthony's 2006 Team USA record for most points in a World Championship. Afterward, he was gracious toward the Russians.
Heck, everybody wearing red, white and blue was. And even though American center Lamar Odom was icing down a fat lip after the game, he pointed out it was an inadvertent shot he had taken.
"It's definitely all in the past,'' American Tyson Chandler said of what the team has learned about the 1972 game this week. "You have to grow from it. But we didn't want them to win (again).''
Durant talked to FanHouse on Wednesday about how coaches had shown the Americans video clips of the controversial 51-50 loss in Munich in which the Soviet team got three chances to inbound with three seconds remaining before a length-of-the-court pass went for a game-winning layup. And players said Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski brought the 1972 game up to them again before Thursday's game.
Team USA guards Chauncey Billups and Russell Westbrook both said they talked to USA Basketball support staff member Mike Bantom, an NBA executive who played on the 1972 team, about the game. Neither had known much about the game previously.
Russian coach David Blatt, a U.S. native who now has dual American-Israeli citizenship, raised a few eyebrows earlier in the week when he said he believes Russian won fairly and the Americans weren't cheated. Krzyzewski came back to say Blatt said that because "he's Russian.''
After the game, though, Blatt and Kryzewski no doubt came down with sore digits with all the handshakes and pats on the back they gave each other.
Krzyzewski started out by saying Blatt is a "terrific coach'' who's "had an amazing career coaching in Russia.'' Blatt followed by lauding Krzyzewski and by bringing up an interesting point about his five years at the helm for Team USA.
"I think that one of the things I most appreciate is what's happened with U.S. basketball under the guidance of Coach K and his people is they have recognized and realized how to play the European game and at the same time still maintain the elements and the advantages that the Americans players, the American game have to offer them,'' Blatt said.
The Americans figured out the pick-and-rolls the Russians were running with success when they took a 35-30 lead early in the second quarter. At the same time, they were turning loose Durant, who ended up playing 37 minutes.
"I learned in coaching you should give your best player the ball a lot of times to make you look good as a coach,'' Krzyzewski said. "Probably the worst coaching move would have been to take him out of the game.''
Durant shot 11 of 19 from the field. The Americans also got 15 points from Billups and 12 from Westbrook.
There were some minor anxious moments early. The score was tied 25-25 after the first quarter, when Russia center Timofey Mozgov, who recently signed with the New York Knicks, had nine of his 13 points. And Russia, which was beating the Americans on the boards and shooting well from 3-point range, started the second quarter with a 10-5 run to force a Team USA timeout.
"The main thing in the timeout was just relax,'' Krzyzewski said of what he told his players. "It's a long game and just play each possession.''
The Americans wasted no time in doing that, going on a 12-0 run to take control of the game. The Americans led 44-39 at halftime as Durant had scored 19 points.
The lead reached 79-61 in the third quarter when Durant drilled a three-pointer. He then saluted the crowd.
Afterward, the classy Durant saluted the Russians.
"You got to give credit for Russia for coming out and playing hard for 40 minutes,'' Durant said.
Meanwhile, Mozgov talked about how he "enjoyed playing'' against the Americans. And Blatt lauded Team USA, saying all Russia was able to do was that it "covered the spread if there is one.''
Nobody was saying many nice things about the other side in 1972, when the Americans and the Soviet played the most epic game in one of sport's greatest ever rivalries.
Billups, the oldest player on the team at 33, said Wednesday he didn't know a lot about the game. On Thursday, he set out to learn more about it by seeking out Bantom.
"He had a lot to talk about it,'' Billups said. "I told him, 'Look, we're not going to bring that back and make you feel better. But we're going to at least try to make you proud of us.' "
The Americans did just that with a victory that advances them two wins shy of their first Worlds gold medal since 1994. Then the teams spent time complimenting one another, a sure sign so much has changed since the days of the Cold War.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson