USA vs. Spain is the gold medal matchup everyone wanted to see. The United States are of course the favorites to bring home gold while Spain has always been considered their greatest competition.
Team USA has won all seven of its games in the Olympics so far by an average margin of 35.7 points per game. Spain has been far less impressive losing twice in pool play and looking weak in each of their last two games in the medal round.
The United States has passed some tests so far, beating Argentina twice and surviving a close scare vs. Lithuania but Spain should still be their toughest battle yet.
Here are five reasons why Spain might upset the United States in the gold medal game.
Spain is bigger
Let’s start with the most obvious one here. Spain has a significant size advantage over the U.S. and they intend to take advantage of it as much as possible. Spain starts the Gasol brothers and then brings Serge Ibaka and Felipe Reyes off the bench.
The U.S. will start Tyson Chandler as their only big and use Kevin Love too but mostly plays LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony at power forward. The U.S. has outrebounded their opponents by over 10 boards per game in the Olympics but that is mostly because they are shooting a far higher percentage.
The U.S. is definitely weak inside as we saw in their games vs. Lithuania and Argentina, when they play without a rim protector their opponent will get a lot of relatively easy looks at the rim.
Spain will pound it inside on offense and pack in their zone on defense. This is closer to the international style and they will have an advantage. Mismatches do go both ways though and Team USA will have to make sure they take advantage by featuring their more skilled forwards in positions where they can be effective against slower, bigger defenders.
Team USA has lived by the three and they’ve won by it so far in the Olympics. They are attempting 36.6 threes per game and making .445 percent of them. That’s off the charts but there is always a chance even for Team USA to go cold from behind the line tomorrow morning.
Durant and Anthony become very important in this regard as they have led Team USA in 3-point shooting. Durant is shooting .558 percent from three in the Olympics and Anthony .525. They are Team USA’s two leading scorers as well.
Spain has been on the opposite end in terms of 3-point shooting success in the Olympics. They’re shooting just .328 percent as a team with some of their best guys really struggling.
Rudy Fernandez is third on the team in scoring and shooting .367 percent. Juan Carlos Navarro is shooting .333 percent and Jose Calderon .348 percent. Even Pau Gasol has been shooting the three for them, making just 5-for-15 in total.
Spain is fully capable though of heating up from three in any game as they showed in the second half of their semifinal game vs. Russia. They will need to do that and pray that Team USA has an off shooting night to pull off the upset.
The games in these Olympics are eight minutes shorter than NBA games. That means there is greater chance for an upset and less time to erase mistakes made early in the game. Spain is more experience playing this style and will surely try and take advantage of it to the fullest mostly by controlling the pace of the game.
Fortunately for Team USA, Spain hasn’t been getting off to great starts lately and will definitely need to if they plan to win the gold medal. Spain should be up for this game more than any other though and we should see a more concentrated effort from them. Pau Gasol admitted himself that Spain has been looking ahead too much in the Olympics so far. That won’t be the case tomorrow.
Team USA has consistently seen teams play their best games against them, at least for spurts. With the game obviously being close early, Spain should show us their best game from the start. We’ve seen Argentina unable to sustain this for 40 minutes but Spain may be able to.
The officials haven’t exactly been on the side of Team USA in these Olympics as per usual. The rules are a little different and there are some things that Team USA will simply never get used to. We’ve seen a lot of Team USA players called for traveling or called for very questionable fouls.
You only get five fouls before fouling out in international play and that could play a huge factor. Chandler will be more important than ever in this matchup vs. Spain but he has in every game gotten into some sort of foul trouble. One would expect that to happen again vs. Spain and that could be very bad news for Team USA.
Team USA players don’t get star treatment either overseas. LeBron and Durant will be asked to defend Spain’s post players some and will be vulnerable to some easy foul calls. If one or both of them has to sit on the bench more than normal, Spain will have that much better of a chance to pull off the upset.
Kobe is probably Spain’s best chance for beating Team USA. Kobe has been for the most part pretty horrible in the Olympics although he has been better in the last two games. We know that Kobe will be shooting in the gold medal game and if he’s not hitting, that will put Team USA in a tough spot.
Coach K will more than likely play Kobe at least half of the game and probably more and he will have him out there during crunch time, if there is one. Kobe has the potential to shoot Team USA out of the game or Spain into the game if he looks like the Kobe we saw in pool play.
The same goes for Anthony as well. Both he and Kobe are going to take shots, probably a lot of bad ones, and if they’re not falling, Spain will be that much closer to Team USA.
The margin for error will be the smallest for Team USA tomorrow morning. They’ve been able to overcome their imperfections so far but Spain is the real test.
Topics: 2012 Olympics, Argentina, Carmelo Anthony, Gold Medal Game, Jose Calderon, Juan Carlos Navarro, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol, Rudy Fernandez, Serge Ibaka, Spain, Tyson Chandler, USA Basketball