After 36 games and 57,600 minutes on court, it all comes down to one match: Team USA and Spain vying for that treasured gold medal. One versus two in the world – the matchup we’ve all been waiting for and what many predicted would transpire. And, it is the Beijing Olympics gold medal game rematch.
Before fans witness a music-inspired closing ceremony, and athletes prepare to bask in gold medal type glory and earned admiration, they will all focus their eyes on the basketball gods and the challengers from Europe.
The road to gold
Team USA as expected went through the group stage unbeaten and fair to say, unchallenged – aside from Lithuania. Considered equal to and some say better than the 1992 Dream Team, this American outfit defeated Tony Parker and the French team in their first outing 98-71, before easily pushing aside Tunisia by 47-points. Next up were the Nigerians whom were unsurprisingly absolutely annihilated, Lithuania gave their all only to fall short 99-94, and then it was Argentina’s time to experience showtime.
Come bracket time, it was the Australians that would try and cause an upset: it wasn’t to be. Again, it was the South Americans who would face Team USA just days after being wiped off the court. Again, we would observe the same result.
The Spaniards finished third in Group B behind Russia and Brazil – the two teams they would drop their two losses to. Spain’s wins came against China by a mere four-points, the Boomers 82-70 and the hosts by just one-point.
In a low scoring match, Spain would defeat France by 13-points then topple the Russians 67-59 to gain their ticket into the gold medal event. This isn’t the Spain of old and what we’ve come accustomed to seeing: their game play has been average and are competing under pressure.
Keys to success
Team USA needs solid contributions from the bench – Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love, Deron Williams (who must stand up) and Russell Westbrook (if healthy). The star-studded roster, aside from their big wins and dunks to match, have been known in these games for their sluggish starts to matches.
Defensively, Team USA must apply pressure to the European outside shooters, forcing low percentage shots. In the big man stocks, Tyson Chandler and Love will needs to watch their aggressiveness: in they get in foul trouble, the game is open to be taken over by Spain’s talls.
For Spain, the Gasol brothers, Pau and Marc, along with Oklahoma City thunder F/C Serge Ibaka must step up – it’s as simple as that, especially Ibaka. On the outer, Juan Carlos Navarro and Sergio Llull have to support Jose Calderon in hitting their shots from the field. Calderon is shooting at a decent 43.9 percent compared to his mentioned teammates.
In coach K’s final game at the helm, Team USA will triumph 108, Spain 89.