On Saturday, Team USA will look to defend the gold medal they won two summers ago at Sydney in their opening game in the 2010 FIBA World Championships against Croatia. Let’s take a look at the game and its odds as the opening tip approaches.
USA/Croatia Odds according to Pinnacle.
USA vs. Croatia (+23) – Of all of Saturday’s games, USA’s game has the largest spread. There is no doubt that the U.S. has the talent to cover this spread, but since this is the opening game, it is never easy to predict how a team will come out. Will they start the game on a mission to make a statement or will nerves get the better of them? Coach Mike Krzyzewski will do his best to motivate his team, but there is still no forgetting that this is a very young and inexperienced team, with Lamar Odom and Chauncey Billups being the only two players on the roster with NBA Finals experience. That means that for most players on this roster, this will be the most important game that they have played thus far in their careers.
Let’s take a look at the team’s first four exhibition games to see how they have fared so far:
USA 98, China 51- In their first game together, USA used a huge third quarter (outscored China 35-8) to help propel a blowout victory. This game showed just how good this team can be when they put it all together, but also showed that they can go into dry spells as they were outscored in the fourth quarter 17-16.
USA 86, France 55- USA got off to a slow start here, with the game being tied after the first quarter. Led by a big game from Rudy Gay off the bench, the U.S. easily handled France over the next three quarters outscoring France 70 to 39. This game helped assure that this team has players other than Kevin Durant who can score (Gay 19 points, Billups 17).
USA 77, Lithuania 61- As mentioned before, USA got off to a slow start and it took some time to recover. This game saw nine lead changes and Lithuania led by eight early on. One of Team USA’s biggest weakness is its inability to defend the rim, and Lithuania was able to take advantage by scoring 40 points in the paint.
USA 86, Spain 85- Coach K decided to switch the starting lineup after seeing his team repeatedly start games slower than to his liking. The new starting lineup proved to be effective, with USA leading Spain 23-16 after the first quarter. This game played more like a game of importance rather than an exhibition game, as Danny Granger, Kevin Love, and Rajon Rondo spent the game on the bench while Durant and Derrick Rose each logged more than 30 minutes. No surprise that this was a close game here, as these are the two favorites to win gold, but it is a little worrisome that Team USA let a late double-digit lead disappear.
Croatia is not a team that has the talent or athleticism to upset USA, but they might have enough to keep the game relatively close. In comparison to the teams that USA has faced so far in exhibition matches, Croatia falls somewhere between Lithuania and France. In the BEKO Supercup tournament two weeks ago, Croatia fell in the championship game to Lithuania 93-82 after defeating both Turkey and Germany. Croatia will need big performances from their centers Kresimir Loncar and Ante Tomic to keep this game close.
Overall, the outcome of this come will depend more on how well USA plays rather than how well Croatia plays. As long as USA avoids a slow start, they should be able to cover the spread. The team’s inexperience shouldn’t prove to be a problem in this game, but could down the stretch against a more talented roster. Take out the game against Spain, and the USA’s margin of victory was 28. And that was when Coach K was still trying to figure out his rotations while some of the team’s best players weren’t seeing the types of minutes that they will once the FIBA Championships officially start. Croatia’s big men could cause some problems, but the overall talent of USA should lead to a blowout victory.
You can bet on this game at Bodog and Bookmaker, both are offering FIBA tournament betting on the full slate of games.