Russia’s miraculous run to a gold medal ended on Thursday when the Spaniards outscored the Russians by 19 points in the final 20 minutes. Spain was down eight points going into halftime, and looked like they couldn’t get anything going offensively. They scored 20 points in the first two quarters. Keep in mind that they scored 26 points in the third quarter and 21 points in the fourth quarter.
Something must have awoken the beast in Spain during halftime. Starters Pau and Marc Gasol, Jose Calderon and Rudy Fernandez accounted for 23 of the 26 points that Spain scored in the third quarter. They may be one of the better defensive teams in the FIBA, but they can also explode offensively at any time. The Americans better watch out, or the might find themselves on the losing end of the stick late in the gold medal game.
Spain beat Russia 67-59, ending thier run in which they went 5-2 in. Russians Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved really impressed throughout the Olympics. Kirilenko shot lights out a very high percentage on a daily basis. A reason they may have lost against Spain is that he shot 2-12 from the field. Kirilenko was also playing through a quadriceps injury. Shved, who was recently signed by the Minnesota Timberwolves, showed a lot of potential in his seven Olympic games. He recorded seven assists in the loss.
Neither team shot at a high percentage from the field. Russia shot at a 37.7 percent clip while Spain shot 37.5 percent from the field, something that can’t happen if the Spaniards expect to compete with the Americans. Team USA has shot at incredibly high percentages this Olympic tournament, often shooting well over 50 percent from the field. If Spain starts missed a decent amount of shots, the Americans could bury them quickly.
The United States it 18 three-pointers in their 109-83 victory over Argentina, a team that denied them the chance to play in the gold medal game in the 2004 Athens games. They shot 53.2 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three-point range.
If Spain opens up the first half shooting at at 20 percent again, considered themselves done for. Winning the turnover battler like they did against Russia will be another huge factor playing into whether or not Spain comes away with the gold this time or not. Spain may surprise everyone and come out quicker in this game instead of relying on their defensive presence. We will just have to wait until 10 a.m. on Sunday and see if the Americans truly are the best Dream Team.
Russia will still be able to play for a medal, as they go up against the recently crushed Argentinians at 6 a.m. on Sunday. I think that Russia will have an edge in this game, as they came close to upending Spain and making it to the gold medal game. Argentina played at their best, but that’s just not good enough to compete with the Americans, who rolled to a 7-0 record on their way to the gold medal game.
Kirilenko will have to shoot a lot better if Russia wants to come away with the victory, and Russia as a team will have to shoot over 50 percent if they expect to keep pace with Argentina. These will be the first matchups between Argentina and Russia and the United States and Spain of the Olympic tournament.