This one deserves a brief preview.
Tournament Play So Far
Both squads defeated Greece by comfortable margins and beat host China as well, albeit in entirely different ways. Team USA withstood a strong first quarter from the Chinese and then coasted to a big win. On the flip side, the Spanish found themselves down by as much as 14 late and rallied to win in overtime. Furthermore, the Americans ran past Angola and Team Spain won its last game versus Germany.
For Team USA it has to be a healthy Dwyane Wade. He's come off the bench on fire so far with intensity on both ends of the court. Meanwhile, I'm going with Rudy Fernandez for Spain. The Spaniards have several players that are more household names. Yet Fernandez is second only to Pau Gasol in time on the court and points scored.
Guys I Overrated Heading In
I'm a huge Jorge Garbajosa fan. However, there's a good chance he's still trying to overcome those leg injuries. He's grabbed a respectable 12 rebounds so far. But that's one less than Jose Calderon's total and Garbajosa minutes and points are low. On the American side it has to be Carlos Boozer. I thought he'd see more time. Instead he's either the 11th or 12th man.
Too easy. Kobe vs. Pau. Ignore the fact that they play different positions. The last time they were on a court together this happened. Still awesome, but I digress. We may learn how to say, "Kendrick Perkins pushed you around at will" plus a few expletives in Spanish, as Kobe is not afraid to pick up another language. At the same time Gasol could make the case for how real teammates act.
Keys for Spain
No opponent has done the following 3 things to Team USA yet:
1. Handle the defensive pressure.
2. Force the Americans to play a half court game.
3. Shoot lights out from deep for 40 minutes. China did for a half but then fell apart.
There's a great chance Spain can do some, or possibly all, of those. Should be interesting to watch.
Keys for USA
At this point I don't expect an amazing performance from deep or from the line. And thus far it has all been about defense. They have to create steals with smothering D that leads to easy transition buckets. At the same time they must avoid the over the top gambling that leaves them susceptible to easy buckets in the lane. Finally this could be the first game the role players have to do their parts. That means some timely shooting from Michael Redd.
Put Up or Shut Up Time
All of the Jason Kidd talk was geared towards games like this. Can he really be a factor?
I did not envision Team USA as a fan favorite while another squad played the role of villain. I haven't touched on this at all yet because it caught me completely off guard and is bizarre. All I'll say is that it does raise an interesting question: Is it better to refuse to apologize or apologize with a vanilla statement that you definitely don't believe?