Team USA Basketball: Previewing Team USA vs Spain
For awhile, we thought that this matchup wasn't going to happen. But now we know that a Team USA team, led by LeBron James and Kevin Durant, will face a Spanish team, led by the Gasol brothers, in the final.
The big story is, of course, the Spanish bigs. However, these bigs have been somewhat underwhelming. Marc Gasol is only averaging 12 points a game, shooting less than 50 percent from the field, with 22 fouls to go along with 19 turnovers.
Serge Ibaka is only averaging 14 minutes and 5.7 shot attempts a game; though he's leading the team in blocks, he has fewer rebounds per game than Carmelo Anthony and fewer per every 48 minutes than Anthony Davis.
Pau Gasol is carrying the team, averaging 18.4 points and 7.6 rebounds per game while shooting 57.8 from the field.
Juan Carlos Navarro, who's arguably the best Euroleague player of the 21st century and the best player on the Spanish team—aside from the Gasol brothers—missed two games in the Olympics and is shooting 30.8 percent from the field, averaging just 9.2 points a game and amassing a steals-to-turnover ratio of just 0.33.
His backup, Sergio Llull, isn't shooting much better, at 36.1 percent. Spain's super-accurate point guard Jose Calderon is shooting the lights out by comparison (43.9 percent)
The United States must counter at two areas: the wings and the bench. Spain's bench is composed of competent Spanish league players, some of whom have been briefly on NBA benches.
Team USA's bench includes some of the 25 best players in the world, including Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love, Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook (assuming Westbrook is healthy). The bench needs to do what they've been doing in the last few games: putting it away in the late third and early fourth quarter.
Team USA also needs solid scoring performances from Anthony, Durant, James and Kobe Bryant, all of whom are capable of scoring large numbers of points from either downtown or inside; all of whom have 10-point quarters and 10-points-per-game scoring averages in this tournament.
Spain's best shot is an anomaly game, where Pau, Marc, Serge and J-C all perform exceptionally well, particularly by shooting solidly from the field, while the U.S. shoots exceptionally poorly à la Lithuania.
Since the Lithuania game, the United States has played all three of its games against teams ranked in the top 10 in the world; all three games were victories by 25 or more points.
Team USA needs defensive intensity to continue to hold Spain to low-percentage shooting. (Spain is shooting 44.7 percent from the field, eight percent worse than the U.S.) They also need to keep Chandler and Love (who will be guarding the Gasols or Ibaka) out of foul trouble.
Jose Calderon, who typically doesn't turn the ball over often, looked rattled in the Russia game; Team USA needs to attack and continue their tournament-leading averages of steals, turnovers forced and points off turnovers.
Finally, here's the one stat that I think summarizes why the United States will beat Spain: point differential. In seven games in this Olympics, Spain has a plus-37 point differential and has won one game by more than a dozen points.
Team USA has a plus-250 point differential and has won all but one game by more than a dozen. More to the point, when Spain doesn't try, they lose to Brazil; when the U.S. doesn't try (i.e. benching LeBron, Kobe, Melo), they still beat Nigeria by 83.
Final Score: USA 105, Spain 90
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