Even better. After a tough loss to France to start, the United States Men’s basketball team has steadily improved and are back on good footing. They helped their cause by beating the Czech Republic by 35 points to advance into the knockout stage. Their margin for error is officially at zero as any loss from here on out sends them back home without the gold.
We’re facing an old foe today. The 2019 World Cup champions, Spain, have had a somewhat rocky Olympics and lost their most recent game by eight points to Luka Doncic and Slovenia. That was their only loss of the prelims as they finished at 2-1.
Where to follow the game
Peacock (or the NBC Sports App) on TV. Grab a midnight snack as we’re getting started after 12:30 AM eastern time.
Nothing for the Americans.
Team USA won their exhibition game against Spain, but we can throw that out as we’re in games that count. Winner here gets the winner of Argentina vs. Australia.
Standing tall. Kevin Durant set the men’s team all time scoring record against the Czech Republic as he surpassed the legend Carmelo Anthony in points scored for the men’s basketball team. KD will look to add on to it against a tough Spain squad. Durant has experience against them as he was on the Team USA squads that beat them in 2012 and 2016. Any game against the American team will always lead to the opponent’s very best, but Spain will be extra motivated to get revenge. Spain had success against Luka Doncic, but KD is such a different player stylistically so we’ll see what they have in store for him.
Ricky Rubio has given the USA trouble in the past and he hopes to do so again tonight. We’re not used to him taking the majority of his team’s shots, but he averaged 16 shots a game in the preliminary stages and has led Spain in field goals attempted in each of their games. He’s made 43 percent of his three point attempts in the Olympics thus far, which is a far cry from the 30.8 percent he shot with the Minnesota Timberwolves during the NBA season. Rubio will have his hands full with the duo of Damian Lillard and Jrue Holiday. Lillard’s shot wasn’t there against the Czechs (3/10 from the field), but for a scorer as great as him, you can throw a clunker out as he’s always a bet to explode from deep. Holiday will pressure Rubio all across the court and try to force him into bad shots.
Jayson Tatum’s knee had been bothering him some in camp, but it looks like the Boston Celtics star is back in a groove. He’s the sixth man for Gregg Popovich and friends and has gotten better each game he’s played in. Tatum provides size, scoring at all three levels, and another person to lead the offense when KD and Dame hit the bench.
We’ve got an international #Hesstillintheleague! Rudy Fernandez hasn’t played in the NBA since 2012, but he’s kept himself busy with Real Madrid in the Euroleague. He’s always been a good three point shooter (37.2 percent in tournament play, 37.6 percent in league, and 36 percent when he was in the NBA) and has kept it up so far in the Olympics as he’s shooting 40 percent from downtown. Spain will need all of his shooting to help keep up with Lillard, but also Zach Lavine coming off the bench. Like Tatum, Lavine has been a plus scorer coming off the bench and he can step in and heat up at a moment’s notice as well.
Player to watch: Bam Adebayo
All Olympics long we’ve talked about the size disadvantage the Americans have had, and tonight presents the biggest challenge for their frontcourt thus far. There were a lot of things that contributed to Team USA’s loss to France, but one thing stat that stood out was France won the rebounding battle by six. As it happens, Bam Adebayo led that game in rebounds with ten and made 5-8 from the field in his 25 minutes. He, Draymond Green, and Javale McGee will play big roles tonight against the Spaniards. USA will need to control the boards so they can get out in transition and score easy baskets.
The Los Angeles Lakers may not use Marc Gasol much, but he’s still a key contributor to a good team. His passing skills have always made him stand out compared to other centers and he’s averaging around four assists thus far in the Olympics. The Americans have talked a ton about maintaining defensive discipline and they’ll need to be on their toes as one lapse on defense and Gasol will find the open cutter or spot up shooter free for three. And speaking of Lakers big men, it’s always a treat to see Pau Gasol. The future Hall of Famer can’t dominate like he used to when he played in Memphis or alongside Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles, but he’s still a good hand coming off the bench that can score in the post and hit the occasional three pointer.
From the Vault
Let’s head back to the most famous Spain vs. USA game and one of Kobe Bryant’s greatest games
More reading: SB Nation