Spain just punched the first ticket to the gold-medal game of the 2012 London Olympics basketball tournament.
La Roja prevailed in a thrilling 67-59 win that looked like it was going to be a blowout at half (Russia entered the locker room with a 31-20 lead). But the Spaniards stormed back in the third quarter, tying the game by the end of the quarter.
It seemed that the Russians could not buy a foul call (just 12 total free-throw attempts) for much of the contest. And some of their star players did not step up to the plate when they needed them most.
Spain’s huge second-half rally and subsequent defensive stand was a large reason for their success. The Spanish also took care of the ball far better than their opponent (11 turnovers, with most coming near the end of the game, compared to 13 critical ones by the Russians) and shot the three-ball with more efficiency (9-of-23 vs. 7-of-27).
Let’s take a look at what Twitter thought of this awesome game and assign some grades for key players in the contest.
Spain apparently had some awesome supporters in the crowd, including the king of the country:
The King of Spain is courtside at the Olympic men's hoops semifinal wearing a Espana basketball jersey. #boss— Bryan Armen Graham (@BryanAGraham) August 10, 2012
Jon Krawczynski noticed that Ricky Rubio wasn’t too happy to be riding the pine (due to injury, of course):
Rubio watching intently as Pau hits 3 to pull Spain within 3. No cheering. You can tell it's killing him not to be playing— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) August 10, 2012
Nolan Smith, guard for the Trail Blazers, believes that Spain just earned a silver medal and has no chance for gold against the U.S. in the finals:
Congrats Spain!! Silver Medal in the Olympics!!!🇺🇸🇺🇸 🇪🇸— Nolan D. Smith (@NdotSmitty) August 10, 2012
Grades for Key Spain Players
Pau Gasol: A
The big man was the key to the Spanish victory today, willing his team back into the contest. He put up 16 points (a team high), 12 rebounds and was a consistent defensive presence for La Roja.
Gasol has to be highly relieved that he was able to string together such a great performance on the day following the great news that he would not be traded as part of the Dwight Howard deal.
Jose Calderon: B-
Calderon did an admirable job running the show for the Spaniards. He also piled in 14 points to go along with his three assists and two rebounds.
However, he could have done a much better job at the beginning of the game to get his teammates involved. That is why his grade dropped a bit.
The Toronto Raptors star will have to be better against whoever the opponent in the gold-medal game is.
Grades for Key Russia Players
Andrei Kirilenko: C-
AK47 had an awful performance in the most important game for his team in years. The latest addition to the Minnesota Timberwolves failed to show up for this contest, totaling just 10 points on 2-of-12 shooting. He grabbed eight rebounds, blocked three shots and swiped two steals, but that wasn’t enough for the Russians to emerge victorious.
If Kirilenko’s shots had been falling, the Russians would be back in the gold-medal game for the first time since the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Timofey Mozgov: D-
Mozgov is supposed to be one of the better players on Russia, but he completely failed to make an impact against Spain.
He had a paltry four points and two rebounds, plus two turnovers, in just 14 minutes of play. That is simply unacceptable for an NBA-caliber center.
The 26-year-old needed to be more productive for his country to win this game.
What Medal Will Spain Win?
Spain is awaiting the winner of Team USA vs. Argentina in the semifinals on the other side of the bracket. It will be a tough match regardless of whom the Spanish face, but obviously, they would rather take on the Argentinians.
That said, it’s looking more and more likely that we will see a rematch of the 2008 Beijing Games finals, in which the Americans held on for a tough victory against La Roja.
We’ll find out who Spain will face tonight when the other semifinal begins at 4:00 p.m. ET.