In my preview for Maddux Sports, I predicted the US team to win by 17 and allow Spain to cover the Vegas spread, which was set at 22 points.
Spain easily covered that spread, losing 107-100, in a game that featured many lead changes and also many fouls, by the overzealous referees.
Despite a second half three point display by the Americans, the Spaniards kept it close after trailing by only one point at the half.
The difference maker was a Mister Kevin Durant, who as a three time scoring champ has now solidified himself as the best scorer in US Olympic history, and is now undoubtedly the guy when it comes to scoring. Not Kobe. Not Carmelo. Not LeBron. Repeat after me: KD35. Durant put up 27 points, 17 of which came in the first half.
However, as I predicted in my preview for Maddux Sports, it was the interior play of Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol that proved problematic for the Americans. Pau, in particular, fought off foul trouble and gave Kevin Love headaches the entire game. He utilized his superior length and size to hit a variety of turnarounds and fade aways, posing the problems I knew he would.
In my preview for Maddux, I said this regarding the matchup on the interior:
Interior: Pau Gasol & Marc Gasol vs. Tyson Chandler & Kevin Love
I’d be hard pressed to say Spain doesn’t have an advantage here. Pau Gasol is the best player over a long period of time of the four and his younger brother Marc is developing into a possible All-Star. At this point in the respective careers of the four, Love is the best player, but sometimes that doesn’t always play the biggest role in huge games like this.
I could see Pau frustrating Love and Love is going to have a bit of a size disadvantage against the 7 foot Gasol (Love is generously listed at 6’10″). Chandler could cover a multitude of sins as the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, but controlling these interior match ups will prove crucial if the US is going to cover the spread.
One interesting lineup the Spaniards could feature that could give the US problems would be to play both Gasols and insert Thunder forward Serge Ibaka in at small forward. The size may give the US some problems, but the counter by Coach K would simply be to go with more speed and pick up the tempo of the game. It would be an unorthodox approach by Spain, but at this point, maybe that is all they have going for them.
Ibaka did play his role as well, despite missing a number of free throws, as the Thunder big man shot only 44% from the line during the Olympics. His strong defensive play along with the Gasol brothers is what kept the game close.
So, it’s another gold for a country that was expected to win, and Spain won silver, also, as Vegas predicted they would, by setting their gold medal odds as the second to best of any team in the tournament at 5/1.
That’s two straight gold medals for the US squad, and after the disappointing bronze performance in 2004, it appears the Americans have reclaimed their throne as the country to beat.
The rest of the world is getting closer, just not close enough.
And no one is getting close to Kevin Durant.