As ludicrous as it might sound, there are Olympic basketball games that don't involve Team USA. Shocking, I know. Today's slate of games features an awesome matchup of Spain and Brazil.
With Russia's shocking loss to Australia, Group B is now entirely winnable for either of these teams. If you don't think that's important, remember—winning Group B means avoiding Team USA until the gold-medal game.
So who should win the Spain-Brazil matchup? Well, that depends on what you value.
Spain has more overall talent. They have the Gasols (the second- and third-best foreign players in this tournament behind Tony Parker), they have Serge Ibaka and they have the silver-medal pedigree.
But they have looked eminently beatable so far in the Olympics. Not only did they lose to Russia in a shocker, but they also only beat Great Britain by one point.
That vulnerability may be due to injury or simply poor play, but Brazil seems entirely capable of winning this game.
They have the size necessary to handle the Gasols with Nene Hilario, Anderson Varejao and Tiago Splitter. They can also counter Jose Calderon with lightning-quick guard Leandro Barbosa. Brazil can match pretty much anything Spain throws at them.
There's another factor to consider here as well: A third-place finish in Group B is far more favorable than a second-place finish. Third place also avoids Team USA until the gold-medal game, whereas second place draws the Americans in the semifinals.
I'm not suggesting either team will take a dive, but if it becomes apparent that one team has the advantage, I wouldn't be surprised to see the other team hold back.
I think Spain has something to prove here. They know they'll have to face Team USA sooner or later, so they won't particularly mind doing it in the semifinals, whereas a silver medal for Brazil would be a huge success.
Spain should be the more motivated team here. Expect to see them at their best. I'm predicting a double-digit victory for Pau Gasol and the Spanish national team.
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