Congratulations go out from BallinEurope this evening to Team Australia, which took its fifth consecutive Olympic medal by topping Eurobasket Women 2011 winners Russia in the 3rd-place game tonight, 83-74. Already going in without six-time EuroBasket/Olympic medalist Maria Stepanova, Team Russia soon found itself shorthanded when starting center Natalia Vieru racked up three fouls in the game’s first three minutes.
Okay, so maybe Team Spain was playing possum. Or perhaps they merely hit the snooze on the alarm clock a tad too late in London. No matter: In the end, all history will remember is the final result – Spain 67, Russia 59 – and that it will be Los Rojos and not the Reds playing for the gold medal at the 2012 Olympics.
A rundown of BiE’s recent obsessions with these two teams … For Spain, the guards found their shot, Pau Gasol opened the floor like few seven-footers beyond himself can and passing (at least in the second half) was crisp and smooth. And the 22-12 (including just four for Russia in the first 30 minutes) free-throw advantage certainly helped.
Which is not to say that the would-be gold-medallists didn’t get help from their adversaries. After going turnover-free in the first half, Spain’s run in the fourth quarter was buoyed by an incredibly awful series in which Russia gave up the TO on five of six consecutive possessions.
Worse yet for them, as BBC commentary noted, this may be the last go-around for Team Russia as we know it…
As for Serge Ibaka, well, the Blockmaster got very little playing; admittedly not without reason. Among the lowlights were a couple TOs, bouncing a fast-break dribble off his foot and watching Sergey Monya elevate in his face, then over it, then bury a three over it in the second quarter.
Again, though, it was 67-59 to Spain; congratulations to the winners. Sorry to see you go out like that, Russia; good luck in the bronze-medal game, see a bunch of you in Moscow and Minnesota, etc.
And yes, BiE has to admit it: As reader Max says, “Oh man, you’re really on fire with the predictions. Spain maybe are aging, but we’re not washed up yet.”
Syndicated game recap runs below the break.
BallinEurope doesn’t even have to wait for the gold medal game on the women’s side of Olympic basketball to offer congratulations to Team France, who, in reaching the semifinal round, automatically topped their best-ever finish in Olympic play. An upset of Russia yesterday earned them a date with the USA tomorrow night, but the philosophical implications might even be bigger: Said coach Pierre Vincent while channeling Rene Descartes, “We only exist when we win, and we won.”
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.
From the newswire this morning comes a bit of nostalgia for those who remember and perhaps a tiny bit of history for those who don’t remember Team USSR of the old Olympic Games … BiE’s telling ya, it’s USA vs. Russia in the finals…
Right, things will be tipping off shortly in London with eight teams remaining in bids for a podium spot. And with the votes in and brackets fashioned, let’s see what BallinEurope contributors (including David Hein, Enrico Cellini and Sam Chadwick) and readers find in their own crystal balls…
Gold medal: USA (with 86% of votes)
So probably the only surprise here is that it wasn’t unanimous. Dissenting votes were logged for Spain and Russia, though the latter may carry a bit of an asterisk. The sole voice liking the Reds to take it all was commentator El Diablo from Australia (!) who took his home side to win the gold, then backed down, explaining “I still reckon that Russia will beat the US, assuming Shevd doesn’t lose his shit again…”
While we’re a little ways away from actually awarding medals for 2012 Olympic basketball, the first round showed international hoops fans quite a lot. Though the fat lady hasn’t sung yet, reputations have changed over the past five games to cause some individual and/or teams losses beyond these Olympics. BallinEurope today takes a look at those whose stock has risen and those who’ve fallen in the early going of the London Games.
• Lebron James. Yeah, like this guy needs a further upward trend in his already all-time lofty-looking career. Four years ago, ESPN’s Bill Simmons proclaimed (correctly, in BiE’s opinion) that in 2008 ‘Games crunch time, “everyone deferred to Kobe, who made some monster plays to clinch it. Know that in the history of the NBA we have never had the best-player-alive argument resolved so organically.” In 2012, King James has proven himself to be the best player on the best team in this Olympic tournament.
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.”
BallinEurope will have something on the marquee Olympic basketball games – namely, Team USA vs. Argentina and Spain vs. Brazil – later today, but once again wanted to post the Official Fearless Predictions™ before early games tip off.
Having already clinched the top spot in Group B, Russia will likely go deep into the bench, and, whoa is that bench deep indeed. BiE says resting Russia nips Australia in the teams’ third meeting of the summer. The oddsmakers give Russia a 7½ point handicap for this one; the final result may even be closer. On paper.
“Ladies, ladies, I don’t mean to brag but, I’m the greatest.” – Sidney Deane
Kudos go out today from BallinEurope to, well, BallinEurope. And thanks to Team Russia, whose stirring 77-74 win from an early 22-5 deficit against favored Team Spain brings BiE up to a 19-1 mark in Official Fearless Predictions™ thus far.
These have already been written up on BiE in one form or another, but we’ll just make these Fearless Predictions™ on the remainder of today’s games. Official now: BiE’s got USA over Lithuania (but by fewer than 34.5 points); Brazil over China; Argentina over Nigeria in a deceptively close one after the African side redeems themselves after the USA Armageddon Game; and, in the upset special of the day – and with two players short and Oz hot, this one would really be an upset – Team Britain over Australia.