Here we go … Team USA vs Spain for the gold! What more needs to be said?
The first hype pushed at 4pm on the NBC broadcast: Kobe vs. Pau! (Clearly, BiE’s in touch with the American broadcasters…); Kobe is 1-0 in Olympic Games, doesn’t want to lose to Pau, doesn’t want to lose at all, etc.
Key stats from the final game in the 2008 Beijing Olympics; that game saw Kobe Bryant go 7-of-14 for 20 with six assists, Juan Carlos Navarro scored 18 after struggling throughout the tournament, and 56 fouls were called.
Spain is following the Liga Endesa-prescribed plan at best as possible, forcing USA to play a very slow game. Fast break points in the first quarter went just 4-0 for Team USA, and Pau Gasol is exploiting the mismatch against Carmelo in the post when possible, though that hasn’t been often.
The first quarter was a dandy if you appreciate blitzkriegs of threes: The resurrected Navarro went 3-of-3 on threes (to offset Rudy Fernandez’ 0-of-3); Kobe, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and Deron Williams teed off for the USA.
The tide turned, as did the feel of the game as the trigger-happy whistles came out, when Spain took the lead at 39-37 and Pau had beaten Tyson Chandler a couple times. After Chandler sat thanks to a double T technical call and the foul-calling snowball rolled on, Team USA hasn’t found its halfcourt game.
Amidst the dozens of fouls called – perhaps the zebras are looking to break that 2008 mark of 56 – Marc Gasol earned his fourth foul with 5.5 left in the second quarter (now maybe Ibaka will have to play in the second half); Felipe Reyes got his third with about one minute left in the half; and for the US, Carmelo’s got three. Most egregious for the US of the 39 total trips to the line was the unsportsmanlike foul against Andre Iguodala with ticks left in the half, getting Spain two more points.
And so much for BiE’s very specific Fearless Predictions™ — at least of couple of them. Would-be top-scorers Bryant and Pau are in single digits, while game leaders are Durant (once again benefiting from Lebron’s shadow) with 17, while Navarro (huh?) has 19 (what?) for Team Spain.
What to look for in the second half? Sergio Scariolo and Mike Krzyzewski reaching for the aspirin with headaches caused by ever-shortening, foul-plagued rosters…