July 24, 2012; Barcelona, SPAIN; USA guard Kevin Durant (left) drives against Spain forward Rudy Fernandez (5) during the first half of an exhibition game in preparation for the 2012 London Olympic Games at Palau Sant Jordi. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE

Olympic Basketball 2012: Team USA vs. Spain Gold Medal Game Preview

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Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

The United States will take on Spain in the gold medal game at 10 a.m. EST this morning. The U.S. and Spain are meeting in the Olympic gold medal game for the second straight Olympics with the U.S. winning in 2008 118-107.

Team USA and Spain were the two favorites in these Olympics and were expected to meet in this game. The United States rolled through their competition winning all seven games by an average of 35.7 points per game.

Things didn’t go quite as planned for Spain who lost twice in group play to Russia then intentionally to Brazil so as to avoid the United States until the gold medal game. That worked out well for Spain who beat France 66-59 in the quarterfinals then knocked off Russia 67-59 in the semis.

Spain is considered the greatest test for Team USA so far. They may not have looked their best so far in the Olympics but we can expect to see them play their best basketball today.

Pau Gasol is averaging 18.4 points per game to lead Spain while brother Marc is second on the team scoring 12.0 points per game.

Spain will have a significant size advantage vs. the U.S. as they also bring Serge Ibaka off the bench, who is only playing 14.1 minutes per game and averaging 7.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.

Team USA’s lack of size was supposed to be a big weakness for them entering the Olympics but they have made up for it with great 3-point shooting. As a team, the U.S. is shooting .445 percent from three in the Olympics and taking 36.6 threes per game.

Kevin Durant is leading the team averaging 18.0 points and shooting .558 percent from deep. Carmelo Anthony is second on the team at 17.4 points per game while shooting .525 percent from three.

LeBron James has also come on of late for the U.S. notching the first ever triple-double in U.S. Olympic history in the quarterfinals vs. Australia. He’s averaging 12.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and is leading the team with 5.9 assists per game.

Two big factors will decide this game: 3-point shooting and size. Spain is fully capable of outplaying the U.S. in both areas and will need to, to have a chance at winning.

We know they will have the size advantage but they will need to take advantage of it scoring from the post. That will open up the 3-point shot which Spain has struggled with these Olympics shooting it at just .328 percent.

They have some players who can heat up from deep though, most notably Rudy Fernandez and Juan Carlos Navarro. Spain should be able to nullify Team USA’s excellent ball pressure defense with their experienced guards, Jose Calderon and Sergio Rodriguez.

This is the game we have all been waiting for. It’s the only right way to decide the gold medal in basketball, having these two teams play a 40-minute game. The U.S. will be favored and rightfully so but Spain has as good a chance as anyone to pull off the upset.

This will also be the final game as head coach of Team USA for Mike Krzyzewski. Krzyzewski has led the United States to a 61-1 record under him since he took over in 2006 and was there when they won gold in Beijing four years ago. 61-2 would be considered a failure for Coach K.

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Tags: 2012 Olympics Carmelo Anthony Gold Medal Game Jose Calderon Juan Carlos Navarro Kevin Durant LeBron James Marc Gasol Pau Gasol Rudy Fernandez Serge Ibaka Spain USA Basketball

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