Olympic Basketball 2012: Spain vs. Russia Semifinal Preview

Russia and Spain will play today at noon EST in their semifinal matchup with the winner going on to play in the gold medal game vs. the winner of USA-Argentina.

Russia finished pool play as the top seed from Pool B, beating out Spain after winning their game 77-74 on a last-second 3-point shot. Spain led 20-2 in that game before Russia’s Vitaliy Fridzon got hot scoring 24 points to lead Russia back for the win.

Russia went on to beat Lithuania in the quarterfinals as Spain came from behind to beat France and advance.

Russia has been led by Andrei Kirilenko who is playing some of the best basketball of his life of late. Kirilenko is leading Russia averaging 18.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while shooting .587 percent from the field. Kirilenko was quiet in Russia’s win over Spain though with just eight points on 2-of-8 shooting.

Spain was cold from deep in that game going just 3-for-15 and really has struggled with the 3-point shot so far in these Olympics, shooting it at just .314 percent. They are capable of much better though with players like Juan Carlos Navarro, Rudy Fernandez and Jose Calderon.

The strength of Spain comes on the inside though led by the Gasol brothers. Pau is leading the team averaging 18.8 points per game while Marc is averaging 12.2 points. They are also combining for 12.1 rebounds per game.

Spain had to get past a very tough French defense in the quarterfinal that may have served as a sort of wakeup call for them. Spain really turned up the intensity in the fourth quarter to come from behind to win while holding France to just six points in the final period.

Russia has some bodies to contend with Spain though in Timofey Mozgov and Victory Khryapa who have both been solid in the Olympics so far.

The X-factor for Russia will be guard Alexey Shved who has been good in the Olympics so far averaging 10.7 points and 5.5 assists per game but has uncharacteristically struggled with the 3-point shot shooting just .259 percent. Shved is a big time playmaker for this team though and will have to play big for Russia to win today.

Spain will need a bigger game from Navarro than what he’s shown in the Olympics so far. Navarro is a little banged up and looking older these days as his jumper and runner have been a little off in these games. He’s a big game player though and expect him to show up today.

Even though Russia beat Spain already, Spain is still the favorite to win here. They just have too much balance on their roster and the skilled size down low should help them prevail. Russia has made a habit of proving people wrong though and they will give another valiant effort today.

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Tags: 2012 Olympics Alexey Shved Andrei Kirilenko Jose Calderon Marc Gasol Pau Gasol Rudy Fernandez Russia Spain

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