Everybody knows that Team USA lacks depth in their frontcourt, but to this point it has yet to give them problems.
On Sunday August 12 at 10 a.m. ET, Team USA will finally get tested. Their opponent in the gold medal game will be Spain, a team that has the 7-foot brothers Marc Gasol and Pau Gasol with shot blocking specialist Serge Ibaka coming off of the bench.
In their previous games, Team USA used Kevin Love and foul-prone Tyson Chandler at center, but small forwards Lebron James and Kevin Durant were the players that guarded opposing low-post players.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” James said on guarding Marc Gasol. “He’s a big guy, and I have to defend him. I have to keep him off the glass. There are also two sides of the court. If I’m guarding him, he’s going to have to guard me.”
Team USA did have better options to play center in the Olympics, but Dwight Howard couldn’t play after undergoing back surgery in May and Andrew Bynum wanted to rest his legs this offseason.
If Team USA can slow down the Gasol brothers, it’ll make things much easier. Pau Gasol leads Spain with an average of 18.4 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, shooting 57.8-percent from the field while Marc Gasol is the team’s second leading scorer with 12 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.
“They obviously have a couple bigs who can control the game, control the tempo of the game,” said Kobe Bryant. “We have to do a great job defensively and take them out of their rhythm.”
Athleticism and knocking down three-pointers have been the keys for Team USA so far and it’s going to be those skills that determine whether Team USA gets gold or silver. Spain’s trio of guards Jose Calderone, Rudy Fernandez and Juan-Carlos Navarro shot a combined 34-percent from the field in the Semifinals against Russia and have struggled defensively, giving up big scoring performances by Brazil’s Leandro Barbosa and Russia’s Vitaly Fridzon.
“It’s not really about adjusting to what they do, it’s about getting better as a team and making them adjust to what we’re doing,” Carmelo Anthony said. “We’re 12 deep. In order to beat us, you have to play 40 minutes of great basketball. You never know at any given moment who’s going to step up.”
Team USA has lived and died by three-pointers offensively making 114 of 256 three-pointers attempted at 44.5-percent while Spain has made just 42 of 128 three-pointers at 32.8-percent.
In the gold medal game of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Team USA defeated Spain 118-107 by setting a U.S. Olympic record with 13 three-pointers made. That record was shattered in these Olympics by Team USA against Nigeria when they made 29 three-pointers.
Stopping Anthony, Durant, James and Bryant, forcing turnovers and collecting rebounds will be the keys for Spain to win the gold. It won’t be easy, but Team USA’s lack of frontcourt depth could mean the difference between gold or silver.
“Everyone has said that this is the game they want to see, so we look forward to it,” James said. “We’re happy, as a team, to be able to be back in this position.”