Spain has yet to win a gold medal in any of their 11 Olympic basketball appearances. However, they have won silver three times, including in 2008 and 2012. If they aspire to win silver or better for a third straight Olympics, they first need to take down Brazil. Compared to other international teams, Spain’s roster is stacked. NBA players like Pau Gasol, Jose Calderon, Nikola Mirotic, and Ricky Rubio make them a force to be reckoned with. In a first-round matchup with Croatia in which Spain was the heavy favorite, they fell apart late in the game and lost 72-70. Pau Gasol had 26 points and 9 rebounds, but Brooklyn Nets forward Bojan Bogdanovic led Croatia to the upset with 23 points. The Spanish must exceed expectations if they wish to take down Brazil and possibly the USA.
Though the Brazil men’s basketball team has more experience in Olympic play, that experience hasn’t translated into medals. In their 15 Olympics, Brazil’s basketball team has just three bronze medals, with their last one coming in 1964. However, Brazil is fielding five NBA players on their roster this year compared to Spain’s four. Raul Neto, Cristiano Felicio, Marcelo Huertas, Nenê, and Leandro Barbosa are all representing their country in Rio. Sadly, Lithuania was able to defeat Brazil in their first game by a score of 82-76. Lithuania actually led 58-29 at halftime, but they barely survived a late Brazilian run to win by six. Playing in front of their home crowd should give Brazil a significant boost in morale, and that could factor into the outcome of their game against Spain.
Spain has the most international basketball pride outside of the USA, and that pride was hurt in their loss to Croatia. You should expect stars like Pau Gasol and Ricky Rubio to use that loss as motivation heading into their next game against Brazil. Spain is simply more talented, especially at the guard positions, and this is a game that they need to win to have a chance at winning a medal.
Though Brazil did battle back to make their game with Lithuania a close one in the end, being down 58-29 at halftime is disheartening to say the least, and it’s hard to see Raul Neto and Marcel Huertas being able to contain Rubio or Calderon. The matchup to watch in this game is Gasol v Nene, but Gasol should have the upper hand because of his outside touch. It remains to be seen if Brazil’s home-court advantage will be enough in this one, as much as the fans of the home team might be hoping.
- Sports.net’s top tip: It would be reasonable to expect Spain’s depth and offensive prowess to win out in this contest. You might want to bet on the Spaniards to defeat Brazil by 21 to 25 points.
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