USA-Spain Set For Another Epic Showdown
To the surpise of no one who knows anything about international basketball, the USA and Spain men's Olympic basketball teams meet Friday (2:30 p.m. EDT) in Rio de Janeiro.
What is a bit surprising is that unlike the past two Olympic Games that featured the U.S. and Spain clashing in the gold medal game, the international basketball rivalry today takes place one game earlier than many expected. The No. 1 and No. 2 world ranked powers will square off in the medal round semifinals.
"We've always felt Spain, they'd have a gold-medal chance, and why wouldn't we think that?" said U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski. "The last two gold-medal games we've played were against them and they were great, great games."
Spain and the USA have met in the last two Olympic gold medal games, and also met in the 1984 Olympics gold medal game. The U.S. won all three games and did so by an average of 16.3 points a game, including a hard-fought 107-100 victory in 2012 and another down-to-the wire 118-107 victory in the 2008 title game. Overall, the Americans own an 11-0 record versus Spain Olympic play.
Spain is back on a track in Rio after struggling early, and features a roster highlighted by seven current NBA players including San Antonio Spurs all-star center Pau Gasol.
After dropping its first two games at the 2016 Rio Olympics, losing 72-70 to Croatia and 66-65 to host Brazil, Spain has rebounded and won four straight including Wednesday’s 92-67 quarterfinals win against France. Over the course of it's four-game win streak, Spain's margin of victory has been a dominating 25.8 points game.
The USA enters the semifinals scoring an Olympics-high 104.8 points a game and ranks first in 3-point field goal percentage (.381%), just a few percentage points ahead of Spain (.377%). The Americans also rank tops in the 12-team Olympic field in rebounds per game at 42.8, while Spain is right behind at 39.5.
Two-time Olympian Kevin Durant paces the USA's scoring, averaging 18.5 points a game while shooting 62.1 percent from the field. Four-time Olympian Carmelo Anthony is adding 13.8 points and 5.0 rebounds a game, Paul George is contributing 12.5 points and guard Kyrie Irving, MVP of the 2014 FIBA World Cup, is recording 12.3 points and 5.5 assists a game.
Spain enters the semifinals game averaging 87.3 points a game, and owns a 5.8 rebounds a game margin on its opponents.
Gasol has led his team in Rio, averaging 17.0 points and 8.7 rebounds. Forward Nikola Mirotic (Chicago Bulls) is adding 13.7 ppg. and 5.7 rpg., while guards Rudy Fernandez is credited with 10.5 ppg. and Sergio Llull is adding 9.8 ppg. Additional fire power is supplied by center Willy Hernangomez (New York Knicks), 8.4 ppg.; Sergio Rodriguez (Philadelphia 76ers), 7.0 ppg. and 4.7 apg.; Ricky Rubio (Minnesota Timberwolves), 6.2 ppg.; Jose Calderon (Los Angeles Lakers), 2.2 ppg. and Alex Abrines (Oklahoma City Thunder), 1.7 ppg.
Gasol led Spain to an Olympic qualiftying berth by winning the 2015 EuroCup championship and averaging 25.6 points and 8.8 rebounds in the nine games.
119- 82 2008
102- 94 2004
122- 81 1992
97- 53 1988
101- 68 1984
96- 65 1984
72- 56 1972
81- 46 1968
#2- 0 1936