USA Basketball will play its final exhibition game in preparation for the London Olympics today at 4:30 p.m. EST on ESPN2 vs. Spain in Barcelona.
The United States are 4-0 so far in exhibition games beating the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Great Britain and most recently Argentina 86-80 last Sunday afternoon.
Spain is ranked 2nd in the world according to FIBA and will definitely be the biggest test for Team USA so far. Spain is considered maybe the only team with a chance to beat the United States in the coming Olympics and we will find out more about that this afternoon.
Spain beat Argentina by 20 points a few days ago before Argentina lost to the United States by six on Sunday. Spain consists of perhaps the most impressive cast of NBA players besides Team USA with Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Jose Calderon and Rudy Fernandez.
The game will feature four Oklahoma City Thunder players in Ibaka, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Last year’s rookie sensation Ricky Rubio will not be playing in this game or the Olympics as he is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered last season.
Spain and the United States played in the memorable 2008 Gold Medal game in Beijing four years ago with the United States coming out on top 118-107.
The balance on Spain’s roster is better than Team USA’s and their talent is high enough to compete as well. The United States are very small and it has been an issue so far in the exhibition games. Spain will do the best job of taking advantage of their inside strength with the Gasol brothers and Ibaka.
The lane to drive will be closed up more than normal for the United States and they will likely continue to settle for jumpers from the short 3-point line. The United States has attempted an average of 28.8 3-pointers in their four exhibition games while shooting .374 percent.
Kevin Durant has certainly led the way leading the team in scoring at 18.8 points per game and has gone 14-for-26 on threes. Durant scored 27 points and made seven threes against Argentina.
Two other gunners for Team USA, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony, have been less effective from beyond the arc. Kobe is shooting just .278 percent on threes and Anthony .250 percent. Kobe and Anthony will continue to look for their shots in general and take a lot of threes. One of the potential weaknesses of this team is Kobe and Anthony shooting them out of a game.
Team USA is at its best with Durant and LeBron James on the floor together. In the four exhibition games, they have each played 101 minutes leading the team. Durant started the last two games but did not in the first two as Anthony got the nod. Durant should continue to start though.
LeBron is second on the team averaging 17.0 points per game. His best game was against Brazil when the outcome was most closely in doubt and he took over scoring 30 points to lead the United States to victory.
LeBron’s role is most weighted on his versatility with Team USA especially because of how small they are. LeBron has basically been playing power forward at all times for the U.S., something that will become more challenging when he is matched up with Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka.
LeBron has shown the capability to contend with the likes of a Gasol on the blocks but for an entire game it is not an ideal matchup for Team USA. LeBron expending that kind of energy on defense will maybe wear him down on offense too, although that shouldn’t be too big of a deal when Durant is on the floor.
The United States has been able to overcome a lack of size by being superior at the wing and guard positions. Their ball pressure on opposing guards is a huge strength although the experience of Spain’s guards, Calderon and Juan Carlos Navarro, should hinder that advantage.
The attention USA will have to pay to the interior on defense may open up more outside shooting looks for Spain too. Not many players are as prepared to pull the trigger on treys as Fernandez and Navarro and if they are hitting, Spain could pull off the upset.
We will learn a lot about Team USA today and see just how big of an issue their lack of size is. Spain will want to win but international teams understand that this is just an exhibition and they sometimes play accordingly, not going all out or showing their entire game plan.
Tags: 2012 London Olympics Carmelo Anthony Exhibition James Harden Juan Carlos Navarro Kevin Durant Kobe Bryant LeBron James Marc Gasol Pau Gasol Ricky Rubio Rudy Fernandez Russell Westbrook Serge Ibaka Spain USA Basketball