Olympic Basketball 2012: 3 Things We Learned from Spain's Win over Great Britain
I know that Spain fields the second-best basketball team in the 2012 Olympics. However, right now, that's incredibly hard for me to believe.
Why? Because I watched Spain's game against Great Britain today.
The Spaniards came into the game with a 2-0 record sd they prepared to take on the home country, Great Britain. Britain's star, Luol Deng, is an above-average NBA player, but their team is definitely not as good as Spain's.
Yet they somehow made the game close, as the Brits fell 79-78 to Spain. Here are three things I learned from the Olympic showdown.
Spain Has Some Prolific Scorers and Passers
Spain didn't score too many points against Great Britain, but from watching the game, it's clear that they know how to score.
A lot of shots attempted by Spaniards just missed, and even though they only scored 79 points, they set themselves up for some nice shots. Guards Rudy Fernandez and Jose Calderon made some nice passes, and Fernandez led all players with seven assists.
No one scored 20 points for Spain, but they had three players in double-digits. Pau Gasol turned in a nice performance with 17 points and five assists, while his brother Marc scored 12 points. However, it was Calderon who led the way with 19 points. The point guard got to the free throw line eight times and made six shots from the charity stripe.
Even though the Spaniards finished with 22 assists in the game and made some highlight-reel plays, they still committed 13 turnovers. A lot of bad, lazy passes were made, and those minor errors will have to be fixed soon. However, most people will focus on some of the beautiful passes that were made and how the Spaniards distributed the ball effectively.
Defense Is a Small Area of Concern
Even though opponents have only averaged 76.3 PPG against Spain in the Olympics, Spain has struggled on defense.
Luol Deng and Joel Freeland, Great Britain's two best players, combined to score 51 points and make 20 of their 39 shots. Overall, Great Britain shot 44.6 percent from the field, and they raised their FG percentage substantially in the second half.
Fernandez and Calderon know how to score and pass, as I mentioned in the last slide. Spain's backcourt is easily the second-best in the Olympics, although they would be even stronger if they could defend better. Both have had trouble contesting shots, and opposing players have gotten some great looks. Yi Jianlian of China scored 30 points against Spain.
In the last nine minutes, Britain scored 29 points (13 of them by Deng). Spain led by six with about 30 seconds left, and the game appeared to be over. However, Nate Reinking, Daniel Clark and Deng each made a three, and all of the sudden, Spain's lead was just one point.
If the Spaniards can't defend better, they will have a lot of trouble if they face Team USA or even Argentina. The Americans shattered an Olympic record by scoring 156 points against Nigeria, and they shot over 71 percent from the field and 63 percent from beyond the arc. If Spain can't defend the Americans, they will get blown out.
As a matter of fact, if they play this kind of defense, most teams will blow them out.
Spain Is the Biggest Threat to Team USA, but They Aren't as Good as Advertised
Just like I've been saying, Spain has lots of talent.
Fernandez and Calderon are dynamic playmakers who score and pass very well, and the Gasol brothers receive a lot of passes and make a lot of shots down low. Both can shoot, post up and pass the ball back out to the guards if necessary.
Because of those four—and some solid role players—Spain is 3-0 in these Olympics. However, their fourth quarter performance against the Brits was very ugly. The Gasol brothers got some open looks, but they couldn't get the ball in the basket.
Since Spain had the lead in the final minute, Britain was fouling them to try to stay in the game. Calderon was fouled three times, and he hit all six of his free throws to seal the win for Spain. Even though Calderon made those late free throws, Spain made just 21 of its 32 free throws in the game.
Today's game definitely wasn't one of their best showings. However, with Team USA looking this dominant, it will take a great performance from the Gasol brothers and the guards for Spain to take home the gold medal. Spain definitely has some playmakers, and they have some great scorers and passers.
However, to win gold, Spain will have to patch up a few issues.