A gold medal seems like a sure thing to most American fans as Team USA takes on Spain in basketball's gold medal match on Sunday, but it won't come easy.
Without these guys stepping up to help lift the Americans to victory, a silver is in store for the U.S., but if these key players do well, a second straight gold medal is inevitable.
Now as it tries to take the gold back home, the team must do so against a big Spanish team with the NBA's leading shot-blocker, Serge Ibaka, and the seven-foot Gasol brothers in the frontcourt. The Americans must keep the battle of the paint somewhat competitive so that the guards and wings can dominate in order to win the game.
The U.S. will look to beat Spain once again this year after topping it in exhibition play as well. This time, Team USA will need contributions from all of these guys.
I said that the U.S. can't let Spain completely dominate inside with its two seven-footers and Ibaka, and Chandler needs to be the one to stop them.
The only true center on the American roster, Chandler has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders to play well in this game after letting the team down in the first dozen. While he doesn't have to score much, he will need to play good defense for the team to win.
The NBA's Defensive Player of the Year hasn't been his usual self during the 2012 Olympics. His defense is lacking, partly because he is playing less than 12 minutes per game.
However, if Chandler comes out and controls the paint, he could become one of the most important players on the floor.
We've already seen Anthony kick it into high gear against Spain, scoring a ridiculous 23 points in the first half in their exhibition game. He has the potential to dominate against teams and we might see him do so again on Sunday.
Melo is a streaky player, averaging 17.4 points per game during the Games. He hasn't found a consistent role with the team, but if his shots are falling, he immediately becomes the team's centerpiece.
If Anthony comes out strong, Spain stands little chance of winning the game. In the first half of the exhibition, Spain was getting the ball inside, but Anthony would always answer and the Americans led despite very little contributions from anyone else.
We could see more of the same on Sunday.
The clear alpha dog on Team USA, James recorded a triple-double in the team's quarterfinal matchup with Australia. He has led the team to its success in so many ways, playing many roles—though none as big as his role of leader.
LBJ played well against Spain last time, dropping 28 points in the exhibition game. Once Melo's incredible first half ended, the King picked up where Anthony left off, having a huge second half.
James will have to impact the game somehow in the finals. Whether it's as a scorer, facilitator or defensively, he must play well if he wants to earn his second gold medal.
With Mike Krzyzewski set to step down after the 2012 Olympics, the team wants to send him out in style. If these three guys step up, he'll win yet another gold medal for the U.S. after saving a program that had only won bronze in 2004.
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