This is sure to be a surprising quarter-final match between the United States and Spain, the two countries with the best chance of winning the gold medal before the Olympics. As both teams fail to win their respective groups, one of these teams will leave Tokyo well behind its goals and without a medal.
These two teams faced each other on July 18th in an exhibition in the run-up to the Olympic Games in Las Vegas. The United States won the game 83-76, but can the United States repeat that feat and keep its gold medal dreams alive? Let’s break it open.
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The United States began its Olympic journey with some fights. They played both Nigeria and Australia in exhibitions, then lost their first group game to France.
Despite that difficult start, the United States beat both Spain and Argentina in their warm-up games, and then beat the United States both Iran and the Czech Republic to end the group stage 2-1. In doing so, the United States has scored 76, 120 and 119 points in total in their three games, while only allowing 83, 66 and 84.
While France is a legitimate contender, victories over Iran and the Czech Republic tell us not much about the Americans other than cutting less competition and rounded a little into the juggernaut they should be.
The United States was led by strong performances from Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard and Jayson Tatum , but one of the best players for the men’s team was Jrue Holiday. Holiday started his time on the Olympic squad late because of his participation in and winning the NBA final with the Milwaukee Bucks.
After playing 28 minutes on the bench in the defeat by France, he is in the starting XI of Team USA, and its impact is evident. Not only is Holiday a great mediator and able to take an offensive surrounded by other stars (e.g.
His mutual contributions are invaluable to this team that is laden with elite goal scorers but has no defenders locked up. I expect Holiday to hold on to Ricky Rubio, Spain’s real offensive broker, forcing them to play their other wings.
Spain is an international elite to be reckoned with, but it’s not very young Squad. Not that this is entirely important, but if you play in the United States, youth and athleticism are certainly important.
In Spain’s most recent game against Slovenia they started Ricky Rubio (30), Rudy Fernandez (36), Victor Claver (32), Alberto Abalde (25) and Marc Gasol (36). The next players off the bench are Sergio Llull (33), Sergio Rodriguez (35) and Pau Gasol (41!).
Although this Team is solid from the ground up, it will be for them a tough match when they can’t control the pace.
Spain is consistent. The Spaniards scored 88, 81 and 87 points in this tournament. They’re not explosive, but they’ll score with a constant clip. In fact, they only scored 30 points once a quarter during the Olympics (Q2 vs. Japan).
While that persistence is great when you’re a favorite, the lack of scoring opportunities is dangerous against the explosive offensive ( and the shooting variance) of this US team.
For Spain to win, they have to slow this pace to a crawl and attack the color. They have to let their offensive run through the post and try to get Team USA’s few big players into trouble.
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The United States have rounded in shape and although their two group stage wins were against weaker opponents, they have started to grow together as a team and Jrue Holiday is a powerful addition to that grid. Vacation is a new advantage that the United States have to play that they didn’t have in July.
In the July 18th show, Ricky Rubio scored 23 points (with just one assist somehow). We just saw what Holidays point-of-attack defense can do against top guard options in the NBA finals (Chris Paul and Devin Booker), and he should be able to limit Rubio’s options by playing the Forcing ball out of his hands.
This is a tough matchup for Spain. Your path to victory does not lead through unbelievable shooting variances or overheating from the 3-point distance; You have to get a win against a US team that is full of talent and can score 30 points in a jiffy.
The spread is wide, but given the additions and adjustments that Team USA has made since their seven-point win made in the exhibition game between these two teams, I can place the points well.
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