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Gold Medal Game Preview

From USAbasketball.com:

USA (7-0)
Spain (6-1)

TV: Live at 2:30 a.m. on NBC and NBC HD, rebroadcast at 5:00 a.m. on USA and USA HD
*All times listed are Eastern Daylight Time.

In the 2008 Olympics
Spain rolled through its first three pool play games unscathed, opening with a 81-66 win in over Greece, followed by an 85-75 overtime victory over host China and a 72-59 thumping of Germany. Spain then lost to the USA 119-82 before it rebounded to close pool play with a 98-50 win over Angola. As Group B’s No. 2 seed, Spain defeated Croatia 72-59 in the quarterfinals and rallied to upend Pool A’s No. 1 seed Lithuania 91-86 in the semifinals to advance to the gold medal game. Pau Gasol has been Spain’s top scorer in four games, including 29 points against China, 31 points versus Angola, 20 points in the win over Croatia and 19 points against Lithuania; while Rudy Fernandez led Spain with 16 points against Greece, Jose Calderon scored 15 in the win over Germany and Felipe Reyes tallied 19 against the USA.

Pau Gasol averages a tournament high 19.4 ppg. and 7.1 rpg., followed by 11.9 ppg. from Fernandez. Overall, Spain is shooting 44.7 percent from the field, 29.8 from 3-point and 73.4 from the free throw line. Spain’s Alex Mumbru is 7-of-9 from deep to lead the tournament in 3-point field goal percentage (.818), while Spain leads the tournament in three team categories, including scoring defense (73.4 ppg. allowed), rebounding margin (+7.7 rpg.) and offensive rebounds (14.3 rpg.). Spain is expected to play without Jose Calderon, who was contributing 7.3 ppg. and 3.0 rpg., because of injury.

Aug. 10: Spain 81, Greece 66 • Stats
Aug. 12: Spain 85, China 75 (1 OT) • Stats
Aug. 14: Spain 72, Germany 59 • Stats
Aug. 16: USA 119, Spain 82 • Stats
Aug. 18: Spain 98, Angola 50 • Stats
Aug. 20: Spain 72, Croatia 59 • Stats
Aug. 22: Spain 91, Lithuania 86 • Stats

A Little History
The USA has played and defeated Spain nine times in Olympic action, including a victory over a previously undefeated Spain 102-94 in the quarterfinals of the 2004 Olympics. The red, white and blue also beat Spain 122-81 in 1992; 97-53 in 1988; 101-68 in 1984 and 96-65 in the ’84 gold medal game; 72-56 in 1972; 81-46 in 1968; and a forfet win in 1936. Most recently the USA topped Spain 119-82 in preliminary group play on Aug. 16.Automatically qualified for the 2008 Olympics as the reigning 2006 FIBA World Champion, Spain’s best Olympic finish came in 1984 when it took home silver.
 
The Scouting Report
Tony RonzoneTony Ronzone, Director of International Player Personnel
How much does having played Spain in preliminary play help?
It helps with knowing personnel, what they like to do offensively, what they like to do defensively. But I saw their coaches up in the stands when we played Argentina, and they saw us struggle against a zone defense a little bit. We didn’t attack it properly, so I can see them looking to do some of what Argentina did against us, which is just play a lot of zone, even some box-and-one sets. Basically, the same philosophy all these other teams have tried, they are going to try to force us to shoot. I think they felt good last tonight when they walked out of the arena because we broke down a little against the zone against Argentina, especially in the second quarter. We didn’t play as well as we have in the previous games. But we stayed up to prepare some adjustments as well.

How much better can Spain play than they did in the USA’s first game against them?
A lot better. They have nothing to lose. They got beat by us by 37 points, so they will come out very loose, relaxed. The competition level is completely different now in the medal round, and any team can beat you on any given night. I think the Spanish players know that they can play better than they did. For our guys, I think the greatest thing is knowing that this is the gold medal game, and this is it. They are going to go out full force. We have to finish it right and play right. Spain will be a difficult team to beat. They have Pau Gasol, who’s one of the great NBA players. They are a great team. I think they are going to come out very confident and just sit in a zone defense.

We broke the first game open partially through pressuring their guards, can we do that again?
It’s looks like Jose Calderon won’t play, and I think with Ricky Rubio being a 17-year old point guard, that’s going to be a lot of pressure on him in a gold medal game. So, we are going to continue to play defense on the perimeter much like the first game. I think they will have to bring their big guys out to back screen us on the perimeter and relieve that pressure. Similar to what we’ve been saying every game, it’s important that we don’t lunge and try to get steals. We need to keep the ball on the side and prevent them from doing their drive and lob thing. They drive the ball into the middle and then lob it to Pau. They get a lot of stuff on that, and they cross screen a lot. And if you notice, with every team we play, they use their forwards to try and get physical with us. They are trying to get us to get emotional and take cheap shots. We have to make sure that we stay focused and finish this thing the right way. It won’t be easy. It’s the gold medal game, you throw it up and see who came to play.

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