Team USA vs. Spain: The Most Interesting Rivalry In The World

By: 08.23.10  •  60 Comments

Kevin Durant (USA Basketball, Nike)

All things considered, Spain vs. Team USA might be the most entertaining basketball rivalry on the planet right now. They don’t meet up nearly as often as Duke and North Carolina, or have the historical context of Lakers vs. Celtics, and their games don’t get as physical as any given Washington D.C. playground war. But as far as producing consistently close results and quality basketball with emotions on high, USA/Spain is up there with any rivalry out there currently … The last time the two national squads met, Kobe led the U.S. in a gold-medal game thriller in the ’08 Olympics over Pau Gasol‘s Spanish team. With the Lakers’ teammates sitting out this summer, yesterday’s pre-World Championship exhibition was another down-to-the-wire contest … Kevin Durant broke out of his mini-slump with 25 points (9-16 FG), 10 boards, two steals and two blocks on Spain’s home court in Madrid, in an arena called the “Magic Box,” which Orlando’s NBA franchise needs to change its name to ASAP … It was tied up with two minutes to go in the fourth quarter before Felipe Reyes gave Spain the lead with a layup off a great feed from Ricky Rubio. Durant tied it back up with a tough baseline floater, and Derrick Rose put the U.S. up two with a driving layup. J.C. Navarro (20 pts, 6 asts, always a thorn in Team USA’s side) got a quick and-one to give Spain the lead back, then Rose (13 pts) got himself to the line with 16 seconds left. He made both free throws, then Durant blocked a Rubio three and a Rudy Fernandez three as time ran out … D-Rose was right in the post-game when he said, even though it’s just an exhibition, games like this are remembered as part of a guy’s legacy. The next time somebody debates whether Rose is clutch or whether Durant can play D, watch how it’ll come up that Rose hit the game-winning FT’s against Spain and Durant made the game-winning blocks … Lamar Odom (12 pts, 9 rebs) started at center, and Coach K said that’s the best role for him on this team. Is that a compliment to L.O.’s versatility, or a sobering reality that Team USA is super-thin in the frontcourt? Rajon Rondo and Danny Granger didn’t play — Coach K said it’s because “we already know what they can do” — and Kevin Love also sat for precautionary measures after hitting his head on the floor in the Lithuania game … More red flags: Team USA blew a 12-point halftime lead; they committed 17 turnovers; they almost lost despite Spain shooting just 5-for-21 beyond the arc against the zone; and Tyson Chandler was ineffective due to foul trouble, further complicating the big-man situation. If Pau Gasol had suited up, he could’ve dropped 30 easy … With only Wednesday’s exhibition against Greece left to go, if we had to guess right now we’d say Stephen Curry will be the last cut. Eric Gordon barely played yesterday, as Coach K said he wanted to give Curry a chance to play more, but Curry’s ankle injury puts him in a bad position when he and Gordon pretty much provide the same thing for this team and Gordon is healthy … Rubio finished with 7 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals, including a sick in-and-out move in the lane before dropping a Steve Nash-ish reverse layup over Odom. If you saw the game, what did you think of Rubio? Will he be a star in the League? A solid starter? A career backup? … Soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was at the game with his Russian supermodel girlfriend. FIRE. Trust us, we’ve spent tons of time around basketball players and have seen the girls they can pull — Pau Gasol’s girl at the game yesterday was like a 12 out of 10 — but international soccer players are on another level. They run through supermodels like the rest of us run through paper towels … We’re out like Fernandez …

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