Through four exhibition games before the highly anticipated 2012 London Olympics, the USA Basketball Men’s National Team has had half of the games as an international classic blowout and the other half as games Team USA should look back upon and question whether or not they’re ready for a team that could possibly prevent them from winning the gold medal. And that team, is Spain.
After blowing out the Dominican Republic to open their pre-Olympic exhibition games, Team USA struggled at the start against Brazil and seemed unwilling to play basketball at all. Fortunately for them, they easily adjusted to Brazil’s style of play and won by double-figures at the end of regulation. Following the win, the Americans came to the country where they’ll be taking their talents for a couple of weeks in the 2012 London Olympics. Playing in Manchester, England, Team USA quickly dispatched Great Britain‘s National Basketball team and shrugged off their bad memories of their subpar performance versus Brazil.
Team USA would then leave England for a couple of days to visit the city where the 1992 U.S Olympic Team, a.k.a “The Dream Team“, a squad current Team USA guard Kobe Bryant doesn’t believe is better than them, easily won the gold medal in Barcelona, Spain. As we looked at Team USA’s basketball schedule while staying in Barcelona, we can safely say that Team USA will be challenged. And challenged they were. In their first of two Barcelona exhibition games, Manu Ginobili and Argentina gave Team USA a battle they haven’t had so far in the summer. Despite starting strong, Argentina fought back and forced Team USA to go full power and prevented the Americans to use all their players. Luckily for Team USA, Argentina wasn’t good enough for a win but certainly gave them a tough challenge.
As Day 3 of their stay in Barcelona begins, Team USA must understand just how important today’s exhibition game is to them, their pride, and their country. It may be a pointless exhibition game to most of us, but in my opinion, this will gauge the readiness of Team USA for better teams they could possibly face in the Olympic such as Lithuania, Greece, France, and Argentina.
The Spanish National Team is the second best team, in FIBA rankings, heading into the 2012 London Olympics starting on July 27. We obviously know who is the #1 team in the world. Being undefeated in their exhibition games is nothing much to be proud of, not only because they haven’t dominated every single game much like The Dream Team (of course, other teams then weren’t as good as teams today), but also they still haven’t solved their inside presence situation. Going up against Marc Gasol and older brother and 2-time NBA champion Pau Gasol, Team USA will have their hands full today in the paint.
In their past games, Team USA has not been dominant on the boards as they should be. Falling in love with the three-point line as of late has caused the team to stay outside more often allowing opposing big men to box out easily and snag a rebound. Team USA’s perimeter defense will be needed as well going up against energy guards in Juan Carlos Navarro, Jose Calderon of the Toronto Raptors, and Rudy Fernandez who last played for the Denver Nuggets.
Spain can dominate either inside and out. With shooters all around the floor and the Gasol brothers dominating inside, Spain will give them a full offensive challenge. Marc Gasol has already shown how much he has grown since last year, by helping the Memphis Grizzlies reach the playoffs for 2 straight years. Marc has already been projected by many critics as possibly the third best center in the NBA behind Lakers big man Andrew Bynum and whining Magic big man Dwight Howard. Pau Gasol has already been well-documented as one of the best and skilled power forward in the NBA. After winning back-to-back NBA championships with Team USA starting guard Kobe Bryant, Gasol knows very well how to dominate a league filled with Americans.
Defensively, Spain will be anchored by a new member to their roster. Oklahoma City Thunder shot blocking forward, Serge Ibaka, a runner up in the 2012 NBA Defenseive Player of the Year. I know, just like most of you, I was stunned to hear this. We all know Ibaka as as Air Congo and not Air Spain, but in July 2011, Ibaka was granted Spanish citizenship which legally allows him to play for Spain in the Olympic games. With Ibaka added into their rotation, Spain now has gotten even much bigger and now Team USA has another big man to deal with. Ibaka will be effective offensively as he can sometimes knock down a midrange jumpshot, but defense is where he’ll come in and possibly pick apart Team USA. After playing in the 2012 NBA Finals and losing to Team USA’s starting forward, LeBron James, Ibaka certainly has a chip on his shoulder against James and having experienced some NBA success in his young career so far, Ibaka will be a key contributor off the bench for Spain. Ibaka + the Gasol brothers in the paint. Yikes.
Team USA will definitely have their hands full today against the team they defeated 118-107 in a thrilling gold-medal game in the last summer Olympics in Beijing, China. Spain wants USA. And in order for Team USA to solidify their international dominance in the world of basketball, Spain is the team they need to go through. Now, I’m not saying Spain is the better team, of course not, but Team USA will definitely have to show up to a team like Spain. Spain CAN defeat Team USA if they can execute very well, but most of all if Team USA plays the right way. Kevin Love, Tyson Chandler, rookie Anthony Davis, who might not even play today, will be keys inside for Team USA. LeBron James, Kevin Durant will be the support the three big men inside. With Dwight Howard no longer on their roster, Team USA will have to approach the tall Spanish team differently. Attack the paint, rebound, don’t fall in love with the three point line, and run run run.
USA and Spain will tip-off their exhibition match at 4:30 PM ET and will be shown live on ESPN2
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