After getting past Argentina, Mike Krzyzewski and the U.S. men’s basketball team play Spain Friday afternoon with a spot in the gold medal game on the line.
The two nations met for gold in both 2008 and 2012 with the Americans winning both, and only Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant are back from the team that took gold in London four years ago. Spain’s a veteran group led by center Pau Gasol, and after struggling early in pool play they’ve seemingly hit their stride. Part of the adjustment for the Spaniards was getting used to not having Marc Gasol available, as health issues from his season with the Memphis Grizzlies resulted in his having to sit out the Olympics.
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The interesting matchup for the U.S. will be at the point, where in Ricky Rubio Spain has a point guard who can’t hurt them as much offensively as the likes of Argentina’s Facundo Campazzo can. Rubio can break defenses down off the dribble and is a good passer as well, but with his lack of a perimeter shot that could play into the hands of the Americans. That being said Spain has the size inside that the U.S. hasn’t had to deal with thus far in Rio, so big men DeAndre Jordan and DeMarcus Cousins will need to perform well.
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That’s the first of two semifinals, with Serbia vs. Australia following in the night cap. With Milos Teodosic, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nikola Jokic all playing well for Serbia, they’ve got a shot against a team in Australia that has played very well in Rio. And given how much trouble both teams gave the U.S. in pool play, the chance to get another shot at the Americans (should the U.S. advance) will only be additional motivation for both.