USA Olympic Basketball Team 2012: Kevin Love's Emergence Critical to Gold Medal

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USA Olympic Basketball Team 2012: Kevin Love's Emergence Critical to Gold Medal
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The 2012 London Olympics are officially underway for Team USA.

After months of anticipation, Mike Krzyzewski's crew have finally completed their first game of the summer spectacle. In the day's only 20-plus point defeat, Kevin Durant and Team USA handled Tony Parker and the French national team by a score of 98-71. This places the Americans at the top of their pool, tying underdog Nigeria with two points via victory.

The storyline, however, is not who won. Instead, it is who stepped up to help secure the W.

After failing to show up during the United States' five exhibition games, Kevin Love came up big in Game 1 of the 2012 Summer Olympics. His 14 points far exceeded his previous production, as he topped 10 points for the first time since the American's first exhibition game against the Dominican Republic, a team that failed to qualify for the 2012 Olympics.

As a result of this sudden emergence, it appears as if the United States have finally found a second big man to rely on. Most importantly, they've found a big man who can score.

With all due respect to Tyson Chandler, who is one of the most efficient players in the game, the fact that he had been Team USA's lead interior scorer is beyond concerning. To draw a parallel, Chandler would be lucky to be named the best interior scorer on any team in the NBA.

That just isn't his game.

Can the U.S. win gold without Kevin Love's contributions?

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Due to Kevin Love bursting onto the scene, however, the Americans' reliance on the jump shot may have come to an end. While Love himself may be known for his ability to hit the three, he's an excellent low-post scorer who can alter the way USA runs their offense.

When Love is rolling from the post, he'll instantly take the defensive pressure off of Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and the team's perimeter shooters. When he's stroking it from three, he'll simply add to an already-lethal perimeter attack.

Contrary to what's been said, however, this isn't about what Kevin Love brings to the team. It's what the team lacks when he is not performing to this level.

Without Kevin Love, the United States may not have an answer for the three-headed monster of Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka that Spain puts forth. Although their stacked perimeter will provide at least one superstar on their game at all times, the weakness of the interior cannot be overlooked.

Nor can the fact that Carmelo Anthony won't grab nine rebounds against the Gasol brothers as he did against Boris Diaw and France.

Beyond the Spaniards remain legitimate concerns. A team such as Argentina poses a legitimate threat for an upset. Don't forget, it was the Argentinians who pushed the United States to their limit during Team USA's 86-80 victory on July 22.

That final score is none too convincing when you consider that Argentina outscored the Americans by a count of 64-55 during the final three quarters of play, when Manu Ginobili, Carlos Delfino and Luis Scola performed well simultaneously.

Fortunately, the Americans were saved by Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant's combined 45 points on 10-of-18 shooting from beyond the arc. While both men, as well as the countless other superstars, are threats to go off at any given moment, it's hardly safe to rely on jump shooting.

Cold spells do occur. Just ask Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Just as importantly, hot streaks can come from opposing teams.

With Kevin Love on his game, however, these concerns can be thrown to the wind. Love can go at it with the best big men in the game and dominate the glass. Although his defense is rather porous, his presence in the paint is of indescribable value.

The question is, which Kevin Love will we see moving forward? Will it be the fly on the wall who has looked horribly out of place through six games with the 2012 American team? Or the All-Star who has made a living by putting up 20 and 10 on a nightly basis?

If Team USA wants to take home gold, Coach K must get the best out of Kevin Love.

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