Saturday, August 23, 2008

2008 Olympic Gold Medal Preview: USA vs. Spain

We know what Team USA is capable of and if they just play a solid game, they should cruise. So in this piece will focus on what Spain needs to do to challenge the US.

Spain needs a perfect confluence of events to align just right if they want any shot. Hope that Team USA is awful from long-range, while they're are deadly. Hope that the US can't turn them over, while they force a ton on the US. Not to mention a variety of other factors. And having Jose Calderon in his civvies & dress zapatas (or zapatas de dress) makes an upset even more unlikely.

Let's take a look at what Spain has to do to make this game competitive:

- Coach Aito has to throw the whole playbook at the US, especially on the defensive end. Always thought a key to Spain's recent success in int'l play was not only how sound they were defensively, but how they try to confuse the opposition with changing defenses. Probably have had the best zone of any national team the last few years with Pau an effective anchor in the middle. They have also done a good job mixing up their looks in the past, and even showing different zone alignments than just 2x3. But this was always done under the guidance of their old coach, Pepu Hernandez. Will see if Aito will get as creative, really only seen some 2x3 looks so far in the Olympics.

- Mentioned before that opposing teams should look to take fouls vs. Team USA, especially taking them near mid-court when the US is trying to bust out on the break. USA shot 75% vs. Argentina, but still are lousy overall for the tourney, and Wade, Lebron, & Dwight were a combined 6/14 from the stripe in the Semifinal. So make them earn some points from the ft line. Even with Calderon out, Spain is a deep unit that can absorb foul trouble.

-Obviously take care of the ball. I think if Australia can keep their turnovers down, think the Spanish club is capable of minimizing turnovers, even with Rubio & Lopez handling.

- How nice would it be if Spain had Sergio Rodriguez at their disposal now. But Coach Aito decided to take an old favorite Raul Lopez in his place; another curious decision by the Spanish coach.

- Feed Pau early & often. See if you can get Dwight into some early foul trouble & on the bench. Then keep feeding the low blocks to attack Team USA's vulnerabliity guarding the post. Also, a double dose of Gasol brothers on the floor together for limited minutes is advised. Marc Gasol did a nice job drawing fouls in the prelim match (I counted 4-5 drawn fouls) when the US went small. And you can use this Gasol frontline pairing if you decide to play more zone, and it gives you two 7-footers on the backline of your zone defense--Germany's zone was the most effective zone vs. the US in '06 thanks in some part to two 7-footers (Dirk & Femerling) on the backline.

- Have to knock down some outside looks if they want any shot making this contest interesting. Spain has reverted back to 2004 with their outside shooting--right around 30% from 3pt. for the tourney, and it's definitely made them look less impressive than the last few years. Rudy has been their only consistent threat, and Navarro has to step up in this game, and even Garbajosa needs to knock down some jumpers.


At 11:32 PM, Anonymous Sergi P said...

Many people in Spain were a bit surprised about the Raul Lopez selection, but he is not a player Aito has ever coached in his club teams. As for Sergio, it was understandable considering how little he's played the last two years.

Also wanted to note that the key to the semifinal against Lithuania was probably Aito's surprising decision to go with a zone in the fourth quarter against a team who was quite hot from the 3p line, but it somehow worked and allowed Spain for an 8-0 run that led them to the victory.

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