Spain put on a clinic for the home fans Monday night, laying an 82-63 drubbing on Brazil to grab a stranglehold atop Group A.
The hosts were led by Pau Gasol, who turned 15 shots into a ridiculously efficient 26 points to go with nine rebounds, two assists and three blocks. Spain finished 51 percent from the field, as it led most of the second half by 20 points and sent a massive statement to the rest of the FIBA World Cup participants.
HoopsHype's Twitter feed summed up the transcendent performance:
Spain just put together possibly its best game since the last Olympic Games.— HoopsHype (@hoopshype) September 1, 2014
Brazil, which shot 41 percent from the field, was paced by Leandro Barbosa's team-high 11 points. Ruben Magnano's squad hit just three shots from beyond the arc and was over-matched in every facet of the game.
BasketballInsiders.com's Nate Duncan noted the stark difference in efficiency:
82 points on 70 poss for SPA. 63 on 71 poss for BRA. Pau 26 points on 16 shooting poss. in 29 mins.— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) September 1, 2014
Here's a look at the updated Group A outlook:
FIBA.com; Top 4 advance
Juan Antonio Orenga probably couldn't have written a better script for the first quarter.
Spain was flawless on the offensive end, moving the ball with precision and knocking down open shots on its way to a 30-13 lead after 10 minutes. Pau Gasol, Rudy Fernandez, Juan Carlos Navarro and Marc Gasol each scored at least five points, as La Roja shot over 70 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc.
BBall Breakdown on Twitter applauded the unstoppable performance:
I’d normally say Spain can’t sustain this hot shooting, but EVERY shot they took was in rhythm, right out of their offense.— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) September 1, 2014
Of course, as Duncan noted, Spain's defense wasn't bad, either:
Brazil only 14 points on 18 possessions— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) September 1, 2014
Spain slowed down considerably in the second quarter, but Pau Gasol's defense at the rim (three blocks) and Brazil's struggles at the free-throw line (just 53 percent on 13 attempts) kept the lead at double digits going into the break.
Brazil was just 1-of-3 from distance in the first half, making spacing on the offensive end a serious problem. Hoop365.com's Rafael Uehara and Duncan offered their assessments of the plodding Brazilian offense:
Splitter & Nenê are getting clean catches & struggling purely vs the Gasols & Ibaka but it doesn't help Brasil can't generate any spacing.— Rafael Uehara (@rafael_uehara) September 1, 2014
Brazil providing a great example of how hard it is to build an offense built around the midrange J, even if it's open— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) September 1, 2014
There was no such problem for Spain, which was able to create space on the floor because of its 7-footer. Pau Gasol caught fire out of the locker room, hitting his first four jump shots—three from beyond the arc—to push the Spanish lead to 20.
The rest of the game was simply a formality, as Spain coasted, looking nearly as impressive in the final 15 mostly meaningless minutes as it did to start the game.
Against a very solid Brazil side, it was enough to consider Spain as the favorite for gold, at least in Mike Prada's eyes:
At this point, you have to consider Spain the favorites over Team USA.— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) September 1, 2014
After beating France in the opener, Brazil shouldn't be ready to panic. If it responds with a win against a dangerous Serbia side on Wednesday, it will be in good position to still finish second in pool play.
Who advances farther?
As for Spain, a meeting with France is certainly a compelling one, but with the way Orenga's team is looking, it would take a Gasol-sized meltdown to lose the group.
That means that with the United States controlling Group C, the tournament's two best teams are on a likely collision course for the final.