2012 Olympic Basketball Gold Medal Game Previews and Predictions — Team USA vs Spain

Kevin Love may have his hands full against Pau Gasol, but that likely won’t be enough to make much of a difference in the outcome of this one.

Outright Gold: USA (1/33) vs. Spain (12/1)
Spread: USA -21
Total: 190.5

Betting Odds from Bovada.lv

Recap of Last Performance for Both Teams:

Spain took care of business against the Russians. In a highly contested match, featuring the tough defense of the Russians, the score was low, 67-59, and Spain’s big man, Laker center Pau Gasol, had the game of the night, putting together an impressive double double (16 points, 12 rebounds) against a Russian team that does not lack size. Raptors point guard Jose Calderon contributed 14 points of his own, to go with Marc Gasol and Rudy Fernandez, who each managed 11 points.

The shooting percentages were pretty awful, though. It’s not often you see a team shoot 37.5% from the floor and still win by eight points, but Russian standout players Andrei Kirilenko and Viktor Khryapa are both not known to be big scorers.

Things will be far different when the Spaniards face the high powered offense of the Americans, and Vegas oddsmakers know this well, setting the total of the game at 190.5 points.

It’s fitting, though, as the US put up 109 against Argentina, with five players reaching double figures, led by LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, who each scored 18 a piece. It was Anthony doing most of the damage late in the game as the US pulled away in the fourth quarter, enabling them to barely cover the spread set by Vegas oddsmakers.

At the time I wrote the preview for the contest, the spread was at 25.5 points. The US won by 26. Late shifts in the betting led to a smaller spread of 22-23 points from most bookmaking sites, but the original spread set by Bookmaker was deadly accurate, to say the least.

Key Matchups

Interior: Pau Gasol & Marc Gasol vs. Tyson Chandler & Kevin Love

I’d be hard pressed to say Spain doesn’t have an advantage here. Pau Gasol is the best player over a long period of time of the four and his younger brother Marc is developing into a possible All-Star. At this point in the respective careers of the four, Love is the best player, but sometimes that doesn’t always play the biggest role in huge games like this.

I could see Pau frustrating Love and Love is going to have a bit of a size disadvantage against the 7 foot Gasol (Love is generously listed at 6’10″). Chandler could cover a multitude of sins as the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, but controlling these interior match ups will prove crucial if the US is going to cover the spread.

One interesting lineup the Spaniards could feature that could give the US problems would be to play both Gasols and insert Thunder forward Serge Ibaka in at small forward. The size may give the US some problems, but the counter by Coach K would simply be to go with more speed and pick up the tempo of the game. It would be an unorthodox approach by Spain, but at this point, maybe that is all they have going for them.

Point guard: Jose Calderon vs. Chris Paul/Deron Williams/Russell Westbrook

Jose Calderon is a very good point guard, but it still hurts the Spaniards to be without Timberwolves sophomore Ricky Rubio. Both are excellent passers and good shooters and scorers, but Calderon’s slow footedness is going to make covering the US guards a risky proposition. Other point guards have had success against the US, though, despite the strengths of the US trio.

Even NBA third stringer Patty Mills of Australia had 26 when they faced the US. What I’m saying here is that Calderon could potentially have a very good game, at least offensively. Calderon’s talents with the ball will enable Spain to (hopefully) control the pace a bit, which will be crucial. Spain must keep the score low to have any kind of legitimate chance against a team with much more talent and offensive firepower.

Outlook

I know I’ve said this a couple times (vs ARG the first time and vs FRA) that the US is favored by too much, but this time I think I might actually be right. The Spaniard are not coming out with the intention of saying “Oh well, we got the silver,” and they were the second favored team to win the gold going into this, despite the still rather long shot odds of 5/1 set by Bovada.lv at the time.

The spread is at 22 points at the time of issue, but I expect it to shift further towards a blowout, instead of the other way around. I think Spain finds a way to barely cover this spread and expect the US to win by 16-19 points, because it is a gold medal game, and though the Americans know they still have to play it to win it, they may be underestimating the Spaniards after dominating up to this point and still never having squared off against the second best team in the tournament.

Prediction: US by 17

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