London 2012 Basketball: 3 Players Who Showed Up Big for Spain vs. Team USA
With the final score being 107-100 in favor of the Americans, Spain was able to keep the game close right up until the last few minutes of the fourth quarter. They were even able to hold the lead at one point in the third, when the scoreline read 71-70.
Even though the team is ranked second in the world—only behind the Americans—they were not given much hope going into the game. They were able to show that they can keep up with the NBA All-Star team that is USA Basketball, even when their roster was filled with much less talent.
A gold medal would have been a nice touch—and beating the Americans even better—but the Spanish team should be walking away with lots of pride about earning a silver medal. They played the Americans hard and showed to the world that Team USA is beatable.
Perhaps if Marc Gasol had not got into foul trouble early in the game, a different outcome may have happened. Nonetheless, a win is a win for the Americans. Their big three for the gold medal match consisted of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, who all stepped up their games. These three players came to play for the USA and were able to put up a combined 66 points.
What about Spain, though? Who were their three big performers who showed up for the gold medal game, and how well did they perform?
Does Spain have a chance against the Americans come 2016?
If Spain even wanted a chance to keep this game close, then Pau Gasol had to be on the top of his play. And that he was.
There is no doubt that he was a factor in the game, but even then, he realized that playing well just does not cut it when you go up against the USA, reports Bruce Arthur of the Postmedia Olympic Team (Via the Calgary Herald).
"We were close, but you have to play almost a perfect game against them to be able to beat them for 40 minutes," said Gasol. "They're very talented, they're very gifted players, and they can score in bunches."
Gasol used his size to his advantage, which was needed to be done to handle the Americans, and he was able to start the second half on fire to keep Spain in the game. He scored Spain's first 13 points of the half to give them the lead at 71-70.
He did all that he could, and left it all on the floor, but it was still not enough. Gasol was right when he said a perfect game was needed, and it is near impossible for everyone to play perfectly.
Juan Carlos Navarro
Juan Carlos Navarro was drafted by the Washington Wizards in the second round, 39th overall. He was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies and only played one season—2007-08—before departing to play for FC Barcelona of the Euroleague.
Last year with Barcelona, he finished 17th in the league in total points and averaged over 13 points per game.
So it comes as no surprise that he would play a key role for the Spanish team at this yea's Olympic Games. He showed exactly why that is in the gold medal game loss to the Americans.
Navarro was able to put up 21 points, including going four-for-nine from beyond the arc. Although most of his points came in the first half, he was still a factor in the last quarter when Spain was trying hard to come back from being down. He became the set up man, and a few times threw in nice looks to teammates who just could not finish.
Navarro, Spain's team captain, had to bring the offense to this game and he did just that, even though it was not quite enough. He got the team off to a good start and set the tone for the game, telling the Americans it would not be a pushover.
The large 6'10" frame of Serge Ibaka was a tough task for the Americans to handle—when he was in the game, that is.
With Marc Gasol in foul trouble, after playing brilliantly up until then, Ibaka had to come in and replace him. He stepped up his Olympic Games once he came on the court and instantly created some inside presence for Spain.
He is a player that is key for Spain to win. With Marc Gasol generally picking up most of the playing time, when Ibaka gets his chance to go in, he needs to play well. Ibaka has to be the guy who can bridge the gap between times of rest for Gasol, and today, he did just that to perfection.
He showed that he can come in off the bench when called, and provide both offense and defense. He was able to erase his disappointing Olympics this year by showing he can score more than the six combined points he had against Russia and France.
Ibaka came up big for Spain when it mattered most, even if that meant not beating the Americans.
In the end, the Spanish team played valiantly and, had they not experienced foul trouble early in the game, they may have made the final score even closer—or perhaps even a completely different outcome.
They have showed that they can compete with the talented Americans, and now will have to wait another four years for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics to get revenge.
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