USA vs. Spain Pre-Game Report: On the Brink of Repeat Gold

Set your alarm clocks and go to bed early so that you can wake up bright and early for tomorrow’s Gold medal match. In a rematch of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Team USA will face off against Spain, the number two ranked team in the world. Spain fields a selection of NBA players such as the Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka. A healthy amount of trash talk will surely be exchanged between teammates who will battle one another for the gold: fellow Lakers Kobe and Pau and the Thunder quartet of Durant, Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka.

Spain has lost twice during these Olympics, however one of the losses is suspected of being a tank job (vs. Brazil). They almost suffered a third loss, but barely held on to beat Great Britain by one. Whatever your beliefs are, it’s clear that the Spaniards are not as dominant as they were four years ago. Their defense has been susceptible and their offense has been disappointingly stagnant. Fresh off a 109-83 drubbing of Argentina in the semi-finals, the Gold medal looks like it’s the Americans’ to lose. The average margin of victory for Team USA is 35.7 points during these Olympics. Nevertheless in this one-and-done format anything can happen, so let’s dive into the analysis of the Gold medal match.

Frontcourt: Spain’s hope for victory rests firmly on the shoulders of Marc and Pau Gasol. Standing at 7’1’’ , 270 pounds Marc is a bruiser who dwarfs everyone on USA’s squad. He has continued to improve his post game and will be the most formidable big man Love and Chandler have seen during these Olympics. Lakers fans are familiar with Pau Gasol and his finesse oriented game. His versatility is unmatched for a power forward and his repertoire includes: flick shots in the paint, mid range jumpers and excellent passing. Off the bench, Ibaka is a dynamic shot blocker who also has a consistent mid range jumper. He has a penchant for coming off the weakside and swatting any shot attempted in the paint.

Backcourt: Calderon, Navarro and Fernandez may be NBA players, however none of them are All-Stars. CP3, Kobe and LeBron outclass the Spaniards in all facets of the game. Calderon is a great facilitator, but he is perhaps best known for being on the receiving end of a Jeremy Lin three-point winner. Fernandez is a slasher who has a habit of flipping in layups while stumbling to the ground. With a career average of 36 percent from beyond the arc, he will happily take advantage of any open three-point opportunities. Despite having the size advantage in the paint, the Spaniard’s backcourt is undersized.  Their small forward, Fernandez, is the tallest of the bunch at 6’5” which is slight compared to the tight end sized LeBron James. At the two, Kobe will be able to physically abuse Navarro and will relish the opportunity to show off his amazing post-up game.

Keys to Victory:

Balanced Defense: Spain will surely aim to attack Team USA in the paint where they have the size advantage. Their hope will be to draw double teams then kick out to wide open shooters on the perimeter. Team USA should deny the ball to the post as much as possible and force Spain’s backcourt to create their own shots. Chris Paul continues to affirm his status as the best on ball defender in the world. He constantly hounds opposing guards and his quick hands allow him to disrupt passing lanes. There is no doubt that Paul’s defense will contribute to the Spaniard’s demise.

Three Point Shooting: USA’s three point shooting has been superb. They hit 19 threes against Australia on a scorching 41.3 percent from distance. The general game plan against USA is to prevent penetration and force the them to shoot. This strategy has worked in the past when shooting was a key USA’s weak point. However, this year shooting is a definite strength for this team. If Team USA can stay hot from three, they will coast to their second consecutive Gold medal.

USA vs Spain
7:00 AM PST, August 12, 2012
North Greenwich Arena, London, England
TV: NBC

Spain Projected Starting Line-up

PG: Jose Calderon
SG: Juan Carlos Navarro
SF: Rudy Fernandez
PF: Pau Gasol
C: Marc Gasol

Key Reserves: PF Serge Ibaka, SG Sergio Llull

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