Spain is the biggest obstacle standing in the way of the USA team repeating as World Champions. Remember, this USA Basketball team is the youngest since they went on a 57-game (and counting) winning streak in exhibitions and official international games dating back to the 2006 World’s — where they finished third. Spain’s got a lot going for them, but these five GIFs do a good job explaining why their on-court product should have Coach K and his assistants weary at the prospect of facing them, most likely in the single-elimination round, or the Finals.
Spain has got a pretty gnarly home-court advantage — just scope out the Twitter feeds of the reporters embedded in Spain, who can’t hear themselves think during Spain games. Also, this group of Spanish players have all played together for the last five years, unlike the USA iteration that was cobbled together less than five weeks ago.
Still, Team USA has a coterie of NBA all-stars at their disposal, despite their lack of experience playing together. So why should any American basketball fans worry? Here are just a few of the basketball-related issues they’ll likely face, in GIF form.
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Spain can get out on the break with a triumvirate of strong point guards.
Ricky Rubio, the most famous of the threesome, might be the worst — at least when you take into account his dreadful shooting. Then again, he’s Ricky Rubio, as much a passing alien with an extra eye in the back of his dome as Rajon Rondo. Witness this seemingly simple touch lob Rubio throws to Serge Ibaka on the break. They make this look way too easy, even if the competition isn’t exactly first-rate.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Sergio Rodriguez, the 6-3 point guard, nicknamed Spanish Chocolate, who played three largely forgotten years in Portland from 2006-2009, then two brief stints in New York and Sacramento during the 2010 season before heading back to Spain to play for Real Madrid that summer. He’s on this Spain super team — rocking a fantastic beard that would be right at home during Bonnaroo — spotting Pau Gasol leaking out on the mini-break for another easy dunk:
We haven’t even mentioned the sweet-shooting Jose Calderon, but you can be sure New York’s summer acquisition will have ample opportunity to bomb from beyond a three-point arc that’s a foot and a half closer than the NBA line.
While Spain’s point guards are impressive, Sergio Llul and Rudy Fernandez — himself a former Blazer who grew unhappy in the NBA and went back to Spain to play for Real Madrid in the summer of 2012 — are holding it down on the wings.
Watch as Llul finds Fernandez going back-door on the zone defense. Rudy catches the somewhat errant pass heading behind him before jumping towards the rim and flipping it under the rotating bigs for a wide open Marc Gasol dunk:
Gregg Popovich would be proud.
It’s not just the backcourt the Americans will have to game plan against. The three-headed monster in the frontcourt with Marc Gasol, brother Pau and the Serge Protector, are all either/or impressive rim protectors as well as superb passers, a hallmark for this swift, assist-happy Spain squad.
Just watch as Fernandez gets stuck in the air here and is forced to pass to Marc Gasol at the elbow. Rudy gets bailed out when the Grizzlies center sends a quick touch-pass to Ibaka for the easy bucket.
I mean, how do you stop that sort of whip-fast attack?
American basketball fans might be reading this and thinking about the Rubber Band man, Anthony Davis, and a game which is blossoming exponentially before our very eyes.
Well, the Gasol brothers bring very different, but interlocking talents to the table on the block and provide the hardest challenge The Brow will face in Spain these two weeks. Pau has been playing out of his mind, and Bulls fans should be justifiably excited about him at the high-post next season.
Aside from looking just as svelte as he did when he was the Robin to Kobe’s Batman during consecutive Finals wins in 2009 and 2010, Pau is stroking it at an absurd rate through the first three games of pool play. He’s leading the Tournament in scoring while connecting on 65 percent of his attempts from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc — remember, it’s closer.
But his brother, the 2013 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, is also on the back-line, not to mention Serge, who led the league in blocks last season. Watch as Serge jumps at the ball fake and gets pulled out of position, only to have Gasol pick up the slack behind him:
Pau meets this Brazil player right at the rim and snuffs the dunk attempt like a Spanish Bill Russell.
Look, the American team isn’t afraid, nor should they be after rattling off 57 consecutive wins in international play. But with this grizzled Spain team playing in front of their countrymen, a resurgent Pau teaming with a now-healthy Marc, Serge coming off the bench and a clever contingent of ball-handlers and shooters surrounding the big men, all of whom can pass and all of whom — sans Rubio — can shoot, the Americans sure as hell better respect them.
Spain looks so good, they might be favored should they meet the U.S. and that’s after we take into account an eight-year run of international dominance where the American professionals haven’t lost a single game. Yes, Spain is good. Very good.
We can’t wait for the two countries to meet, hopefully in the Finals…
Will the USA defeat Spain if they meet?
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