Well, more grist for the debate mill was produced last night as FC Barcelona surprised the Dallas Mavericks at the ‘Palau, 99-85. The occasion marked the third such triumph for the Spanish side in recent years and chases up the 2010 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. Perhaps most significantly locally, even those a bit begrudging about European basketball may admit that this was a big win for Barça.
The United States Dream Team of NBA stars captured their second Olympic men’s basketball gold medal in a row and the 14th overall for America by beating Spain 107-100 in Sunday’s final. The US multi-millionaire lineup of NBA elite claimed their fifth crown in the past six Olympics, improving to 62-since revamping the national team program after settling for bronze in 2004.
The Americans ran through the tournament undefeated just as they did in 2008 when they defeated Spain 118-107 in the Beijing final. The latest roster had five gold winners from Beijing and five from the US 2010 world champions.…
Here we go … Team USA vs Spain for the gold! What more needs to be said?
The first hype pushed at 4pm on the NBC broadcast: Kobe vs. Pau! (Clearly, BiE’s in touch with the American broadcasters…); Kobe is 1-0 in Olympic Games, doesn’t want to lose to Pau, doesn’t want to lose at all, etc.
Key stats from the final game in the 2008 Beijing Olympics; that game saw Kobe Bryant go 7-of-14 for 20 with six assists, Juan Carlos Navarro scored 18 after struggling throughout the tournament, and 56 fouls were called.
Spain is following the Liga Endesa-prescribed plan at best as possible, forcing USA to play a very slow game. Fast break points in the first quarter went just 4-0 for Team USA, and Pau Gasol is exploiting the mismatch against Carmelo in the post when possible, though that hasn’t been often.
2012 Olympic basketball: The perspective from Spain on the gold-medal game (plus really specific Official Fearless Prediction™)
Team USA is transparent enough that everyone seems to know their weaknesses and how to exploit them; the blueprint is universally known, but no one is able to implement the game plan. The enormous quantity of talent on Team USA means that playing even a perfect game does not translate to a win.
“We will try not have too many possessions, not miss many shots and control the boards,” said Juan Carlos Navarro. Doing it all at the same time is difficult, but we will try. I don’t know if we’ll reach 100 points … but the points are not important. [What’s important is] to play good defense.”
What else must be done:
• Limit turnovers. It is evident that the U.S. defensive pressure up top results in many steals that finish with easy baskets on the other end. Attacking with the ball and getting off to a quick start offensively is key to the USA game. And against Team USA, passes to the wing or inside expose the offensive to further losses amidst the quick hands and speed of the American defenders.
Now that BallinEurope’s personal Olympic bracket has been shot to hell, BiE will revert to the cumulative readers/contributors’ podium picks of USA-Russia-Argentina. Followers know that BiE’s ridden Russia since the opening ceremonies and the quarterfinals, despite a Spain win, only strengthened this convinction. Below, then, are five reasons why Russia will overcome the 4.5-point favorites.
Well, it had to happen. In the wake of the shocking (not!) defeat handed to Spain by the boys from Brazil yesterday, you knew allegations of tanking in order to avoid an earlier date with Team USA would be forthcoming; heck, Sergio Scariolo did. Los Rojos’ coach was quoted in a wire story as saying, “I don’t want to be disrespectful but this is not an intelligent issue to talk about.”
Amid the rather baseless speculation much is sadly forgotten: For example, Leandro Barbosa’s wonderful performance. Brazil showing halfcourt mastery in beating Spain at its own game and the South American side’s nicely energetic and up-tempo style. More sad, slow play from the Spanish guards and sharpshooters (BiE’s looking at you, Juan Carlos) absolutely typical in these Olympics. The fact that the overall 6-of-23, 23-point performance by those not named Gasol or Ibaka was merely a slight exaggeration of the pool play games in general, as Spain minus the big three went for 37.8% overall shooting.
No, it really isn’t.
BallinEurope may be pulling the trigger a bit early on this one, but has to ask: Was the loss to Russia on Saturday a harbinger of things to come from Team Spain? Not to put too fine a point on it, but is the marathon (by today’s standards) golden age of Spanish basketball in international competition over?
It is that sheer length of the era of Spanish dominance that makes one wonder about the security of Los Rojos’ presumptive top-dog status going forward: Since 2001, Team Spain has medalled in nine of 13 international tournaments – including the Olympic Games, FIBA Eurobasket, FIBA World Championship/Cup and Mediterranean Games. In the past six years, the Spanish have taken home three golds and five silver from FIBA and the IOC, the sole missed podium coming at the 2010 FIBA Worlds, when Pau Gasol no-showed and Team USA brought its “B Team.”
And now, round two. Or maybe that should be “round B.” With BallinEurope having (sort of) Fearlessly Predicted the entries for the 2012 Olympic basketball knockout stage from Group A, it’s onto the Official Fearless Predictions™ for Group B – and we’ll do this one from the bottom up.6. China (0-5)
5. Australia (1-4)
4. Britain (2-3)
Damn right BiE’s going there, taking Team Britain to advance for purely selfish reasons: BiE wants the European sweep. BiE supports the fledgling program they’re trying to maintain on the Isle where basketball is a low (*low*) priority in sports fans’ hearts. BiE loves the proverbial pluckiness, the dogged daring, Luol Deng and Pops Mensah-Bonsu. And because BiE wants the highlight YouTube clip potential of a USA-Britain Olympic tournament game.
Well, then. If not quite as emphatic as in the days of Dream Teams I through III, Team USA dispatched the world’s second-best/Europe’s best side for a 100-78 win over Spain in Barcelona. Though the notebook on the Red, White and Blues mostly accentuates the positive, one doesn’t quite need to squint to see chinks in the armor – particularly with that glaring asterisk in the box score, i.e. the absence of Marc Gasol and Sergio Rodriguez.
In an Olympic field that appears to be the strongest ever on paper, could a flawed team like this one still grab the gold? (And if flawed teams are in the running for a podium spot, is Lithuania more enthused?)
A few lines from BallinEurope’s notebook and other stuff (like highlights) follow.
When basketball fans look back on the 1992 Olympic Games, the top three topics are the awesomeness of the Dream Team, the success of Lithuania playing its first Olympic hoops as an independent nation, and the success of Croatia playing its first Olympic hoops as an independent nation.
Fair enough, BiE supposes, but what about those other NBA-level and/or Euroleague-dominating players in the Barcelona tournament? And what about the historical story surrounding Europe’s other three teams in those ‘Games? Herewith, a European Dream Team of sorts for the ‘92 Olympics plus a tiny bit of backstory and lotsa highlight clips.
As host nation, Team Spain received an automatic bid to the Barcelona Games. Though no slouches in Olympic play – Los Rojos had earned a spot in five of the six previous tournaments, including a silver-medal finish in the Soviet boycott Games of 1984 – history shows that more important in the bigger picture was that 12-year-olds such as Juan Carlos Navarro and Pau Gasol were watching and gaining inspiration.
Spain finished in ninth place after going 1-4 in group play (including a 122-81 drubbing at the hands of the Dreams) and were led in ’92 by long-time national team stars Jordi Villacampa…