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Olympic Basketball 2012: Why Team USA Should Worry About Spain

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JULY 24:  Pau Gasol #4 of the Spain Men's Senior National Team jumps for a rebound during a Pre-Olympic Men's Exhibition Game between USA and Spain at Palau Sant Jordi on July 24, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images
Will OsgoodAnalyst IJuly 30, 2012

The USA men's basketball team has looked nearly invincible during their time in London, and prior to it, against some of the world's better international teams—including Spain. 

Only Brazil has put any fear in Coach K's team, and yet still walked away with an 11-point loss in their exhibition match in D.C. two weeks ago. 

Insert Spain, who was one of the USA's blowout targets in the exhibition matches. Though the United States handled the Spanish team in that match, it was, after all, just an exhibition game. 

In Sunday's opening game of the Olympic schedule, the Spanish team was dominant against the Chinese team, winning 97-81. Of course, China wasn't much of a match for a Spanish team expected to medal in the 2012 Games. 

The primary reason this Spanish team should medal is the incredible frontcourt they possess. Between Pau and Marc Gasol and on-the-rise NBA flyer Serge Ibaka, Team Espana has the most dangerous frontcourt in the Olympic field. 

Both Gasol brothers are NBA All-Stars, and Ibaka has the capability to become one in the near future. Believe it or not, the kid (actually from Congo) is still just 22 years of age. He's already the best shot-blocker in the NBA, a great rebounder and a very underrated scoring threat. 

If he lacks anything in girth and mere physicality, Marc Gasol makes up for that. Of the three, it is clear Marc is the most fierce and most natural center. He has an advanced back-to-the-basket game, but is also able to step out and hit a jump shot. 

Pau and Ibaka are clearly your more traditional power forwards. Though Pau possesses the offensive post game of his younger brother, he is not as physical and often criticized for playing with finesse. 

But the point is this: Pau is better than any player the USA would match him up with in the post. If LeBron is playing power forward, Gasol will cream him in the post. 

If it is Kevin Love, Gasol will stay outside and hit the mid-range jump shot. And even if Coach K elects to switch to a zone defensive scheme, Gasol will effectively combine the mid-range with the interior offensive game.

In fact, both brothers will be able to do that effectively. 

Marc may not dominate against Tyson Chandler, but should be able to neutralize his interior presence as a defender, thus making Pau and Spain's driving fools more effective around the basket. 

Meanwhile, Ibaka can hold down the fort defensively with his lateral movement ability (so useful with the expanded paint of the FIBA game). Team USA lacks a great interior scorer—even Kevin Love is not really an interior scorer, but a mid-range guy who occasionally drives and scores down low. 

The other aspect of this that could be dangerous for the U.S. team is this: Only Kevin Durant and James Harden are world-class shooters. If the rest of the team is not hitting, Spain can stay in the game and, with their frontcourt, keep the USA team off the boards. 

One shot is never the right formula for a poor offensive shooting team. That is the troubling nature of a matchup with Spain for the United States. 

And that is the main reason Spain has to feel comfortable with the thought of a medal round matchup with the United States team. 

If nothing else, it ought to be a great basketball game. 

 

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