What can Spain do to upset the heavily favored Team USA in today’s men's gold-medal Olympic basketball finale?
By the looks of things, there isn’t much anyone has been able to do to slow down the high tempo and excellent shooting of the Americans in London.
Spain, though, pushed the Americans to their limit at the classic gold-medal game of the Beijing Olympics. Ultimately they lost 118-107, but they made an impressive showing in a game they were supposed to lose.
Spain is returning all of their key players from its 2008 team, including point guard Jose Calderon, who was injured and did not play in the final against America.
Not much has changed in four years but the Spaniards do have experience playing this “Redeem Team” of the USA.
If they can accomplish a couple of things while tempering the storm of the American offensive onslaught, there may be hope for an upset of epic proportion to finish the 2012 Olympics.
Key No. 1: Contest and Force Jumpers
Team USA is shooting a remarkable 44.5 percent from beyond the three-point line in these Olympics. That is unheard of. While it is impressive, it cannot and will not go on forever.
If Spain can contest these shots better than the other competition has been able to, that percentage is sure to drop with the pressure of a gold medal hanging in the balance.
Spain should want the Americans to rely on chucking up three-pointers and pray that a more manageable percentage fall through the net.
Key No. 2: Control the Paint
The presence of Spain's NBA stars in the paint includes Serge Ibaka, Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol. Those three have the potential to shut down the American inside game and slow their transition opportunities by rebounding effectively.
It’s not going to be easy, and the slightly undersized American frontcourt certainly isn’t going to back down, but the advantage is theirs if the Spaniards choose to utilize it.
"Marc is really the big difference," U.S. superstar Kobe Bryant said on FIBA.com.
The “other” Gasol has definitely improved his game since 2008 and will be a huge help for Spain in their bid to upset Team USA and win themselves a gold medal.
Key No. 3: Control the Tempo; Show up in the Third Quarter
The Americans thrive off of transition basketball. Their full-court game is unrivaled in basketball circles around the world.
With that being the case, the Spaniards need to control the boards and slow the game down by setting up their offense and executing it through the hands of Jose Calderon.
Getting to the free-throw line will also help slow things down—and Spain are effective from the free stripe. They’ve connected on 71.8 percent of their free throws this summer.
Also, several teams have played the U.S. tightly until halftime. The depth of the Americans truly begins to shine as the third quarter exposes their opponents' lack thereof. If Spain can control the tempo and slow things down they may be able to conserve energy and stick with the deeper American squad down the stretch.
If Spain can execute on these three key points, they will have a good chance of repeating their excellent performance in the 2008 Beijing Olympics gold-medal game.
They may even have an upset deep down inside them that will rock the world during the final hours of the 2012 Olympics.
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