Three-time WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson is one of the finest female basketball players in the world, but not even she will be able to slow down the dominant United States when the two countries meet in the semifinal round of the women's Olympic basketball tournament.
It won't be the first time that she's tried, of course. The United States has beaten Australia in the last three gold-medal games, making it a bit of a surprise that this year they'll meet in the semis.
Plus, Australia is without star Penny Taylor, placing an even heavier burden on the shoulders of Jackson and Aussie teammate Liz Cambage, who had one of the highlights of the tournament when she dunked against Russia.
The stats tell this story.
The United States are averaging 92.2 points per game; Australia is averaging 71.3. The United States have won 39 straight Olympic games; Australia lost in group play to France. The United States has six players averaging nine or more points per game; Australia has three.
Get the drift?
Of course, Jackson (14.7 points, 5.8 rebounds per game) and Cambage (14.5 points, 6.0 rebounds per game) have been fantastic. Against China in the quarterfinals, Jackson became the all-time leading scorer in women's basketball at the Olympics.
But can two players really overcome a United States roster full of WNBA stars that goes so deep? (Four-time WNBA All-Star Swin Cash and two-time WNBA All-Star Sylvia Fowles don't even get double-digit minutes.)
I don't think so. Heck, even Jackson is understating expectations for Australia (via BBC Sport):
"The last four years we've had since Beijing there's been a lot of changes within our program," said Jackson, noting an influx of new players.
"To get back in the semi-finals and be a medal contender is huge for us."
The subtext to me reads as, We'll totally be happy with a bronze medal. We're probably not going to beat the United States. No competitor would ever say it, but anyone who watches enough women's basketball is certainly thinking it.
Jackson is always a force to be reckoned with, and she'll give Team USA headaches. But just as was the case in the last three Olympics, she won't be enough to stop the Americans in their quest for a gold medal.
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