London 2012 Basketball: Complete Preview and Prediction of USA vs. Spain
Team USA Basketball is one win from an Olympic gold medal, with only Spain standing in its way.
Time, TV, Location: Sunday, Aug. 12, 10:00 a.m. ET, NBC, North Greenwich Arena
Olympic Records: USA (7-0), Spain (5-2)
USA's starting lineup: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Tyson Chandler
Spain's starting lineup: Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Jose Calderon, Juan Carlos Navarro, Rudy Fernandez
Betting Line: TBD
Key Storyline to Watch For
Team USA's ability to win a game in mere minutes. The Americans don't play brilliantly on the offensive end for a full 40, but instead obliterate the opposition with a few minutes of easy baskets and hot shooting.
The team is talented enough to dawdle throughout the remainder of the game and still come up with an easy win, but those short bursts of eviscerating shot-making are mind-boggling.
It's basketball dominance in perfect clarity and the clearest demonstration possible of America's basketball superiority.
It's not a specific pairing, per se, but keep an eye on the perimeter shooters for both clubs. Three-point barrages are a big part of the explosive runs discussed above and inversely crucial to any hope Spain has of stealing the gold.
On the other side of the ball, Spain's perimeter shooting has been miserable throughout the Olympic tournament (excepting a five-make third quarter in the semifinal against Russia). Without significant improvement from beyond the arc, Team USA will be able to pack the paint and throw all kinds of pressure at Pau and Marc Gasol.
The Game Will Be Close If...
Spain's offense finally clicks against Team USA's gambling defense and the Americans don't reset in time to protect their lead. The Americans are nothing if not aggressive on the defensive end, but too often they let their ball-pressuring instincts get the better of them.
Spain is certainly equipped to take advantage of that fact, but it'll need a perfect game of passing, cutting and spot-up shooting—not to mention an off night from Team USA's shooters—to even keep this thing competitive.
Spain just hasn't played well enough to pose a credible threat to the United States, barring completely ideal circumstances.
Player the U.S. Has to Contain...
Frankly, no single player is absolutely necessary to contain given Team USA's advantage, but it would certainly help the Americans' efforts to limit Pau Gasol's impact as much as possible.
Gasol isn't always a dominant scorer for Spain, but his work from both the high and low post is essential; he passes well, re-centers the offense on flailing possessions, attracts extra defensive attention and contributes scoring of his own.
If Team USA is able to at least make those functions more difficult, it should give itself the cushion necessary to put Spain away.
Jose Calderon. Spain's primary ball-handler will be picked up full-court by the likes of Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams and Kobe Bryant, who will collectively challenge every dribble and pass.
Calderon is skilled enough to withstand the pressure, but he'll have to do more than survive if Spain is going to really give Team USA an endgame challenge.
If Calderon—Spain's most reliable long-range shooter—can not only protect the ball but convert his three-point attempts when the ball swings back his way, the Spaniards could at least do well enough on offense to put up a fight.
It Will Be a Team USA Blowout If...
Both teams play the way they have throughout the Olympic tournament. Team USA hasn't played flawless basketball, but it's been far better than every other national team in the tournament—Spain included.
We're going to have to see something remarkable for Spain to pull off an upset, and something uncharacteristic to this tournament if Spain is even going to keep the margin workable.
That didn't appear to be the case during the lead-in to London, but Team USA has simply been that convincing, and the Spaniards have been that underwhelming.
Plus, Team USA has such an incredible margin for error. If Carmelo Anthony isn't hitting from outside, it's likely that Kevin Durant will be. If Deron Williams isn't having his best game, then Chris Paul can surely steady the offense. Should Tyson Chandler get in foul trouble, Kevin Love can step in to work the glass and space the floor.
Oh, and just in case every other option that Team USA has comes up short, it has LeBron James—the best player in the world and certainly in this tournament—to attack Spain in any and every way possible.
USA 102, Spain 83. Regardless of whether the Americans start with a plod or a sprint, expect them to create a sizable lead and take advantage of Spain's underperforming offense.
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