The United States and Spain will meet with nothing on the line on Tuesday evening in Barcelona. It’s the biggest, most anticipated pre-Olympic friendly in the world as the two gold medal favorites face off.
Next time they meet, it very possibly will be with the gold medal in the London Olympics on the line.
Which is going to make Tuesday’s game an odd little dance.
Both teams will want to win. Both teams will take it seriously. Both teams would love to send a message with this game. But if you have a strategy or matchup you think really favors your side, you will not pull it out for this game. Keep your powder dry and save the big guns for the real fight.
Spanish players like Marc Gasol have pretty much admitted this is what will be going on. And it makes sense. If you are Spain and you think a zone would be effective against the United States, you might at best throw it in for a few possessions to see how Team USA reacts, but you’re not going to show your hand. Yet.
You can bet Mike Krzyzewski is thinking the same thing. So be careful about taking too much away from this game.
Still, this will be the biggest test of the United States’ biggest weakness — can they handle the size of Spain up front? Spain starts Marc Gasol and Pau Gasol, they bring Serge Ibaka off the bench.
The USA has been much better in the preseason games when Tyson Chandler is on the floor and he is going to have to stay on for long stretches in this game to protect the rim. The United States needs Kevin Love to step up his game and not coast (did you see Andres Nocioni outwork him for a rebound in the last game?). They need to show that LeBron James at the four can both work on the defensive end and be a matchup nightmare on offense. The USA needs their pressure defense to lead to some turnovers and easy buckets.
These are things to watch. But don’t read too much into this game. Both sides are not playing their best cards.
The Miami Heat took until the final moments on Tuesday night to beat the Detroit Pistons, but it was worth it. With just a handful of games left to play, the Heat need to stave off the Chicago Bulls for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Thanks to a tip at the buzzer by Hassan Whiteside, they’re one step closer to achieving that goal.
The play came with just seconds left in the fourth quarter. James Johnson missed a shot with six seconds to go, and the Heat grabbed the rebound. Goran Dragic then tried his hand, but he couldn’t get it to go, either.
That’s when Whiteside came back with a tip at the buzzer that ended the game.
Miami now sits at 36-38, a game above the Bulls for the No. 8 seed.
Whiteside, meanwhile, is never going to wash that hand again:
Former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was a pretty consistent player in the NBA. Save for his final injury-laden seasons and the lockout year of 2011-12, Bryant played in no fewer than 65 regular season games in a single season.
Coaches also had no reason or want to ask Bryant — a notorious worker — to sit out in order to rest. That wasn’t really on the menu, and Bryant knew that.
Speaking to ESPN’s First Take, Bryant said no coach really asked him to ever take a rest, “I’ve never been approached by a coach and asked to rest.”
Bryant remarked that he took queues from Michael Jordan during tough stretches of the season — back-to-backs or four games in five night scenarios — where he could switch his game up, floating from perimeter to post, in order to save energy during those matchups.
Bryant also said during the same interview that he understands the complexity of the modern game, and that players like LeBron James deserve to take a rest if they’ve earned it.
“LeBron has done so much for the game. He’s earned the opportunity to take a rest,” said Bryant.
The debate on this subject will continue, it seems.
New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis is the future of the franchise, so any time he’s upended and nearly lands on his noggin it’s a cause for concern. To say the least.
That’s what happened on Monday night, as Porzingis got turned upside down during a play near the basket during a game against the Detroit Pistons.
Porzingis was OK on the play, and Detroit big man Andre Drummond did his best to help catch him so nothing too scary happened.
Still, Knicks president Phil Jackson had a pretty hilarious reaction to the whole thing. I guess that’s what happens when you watch your basketball life flash before your eyes.
Porzingis was unhurt and played a full 37 minutes. New York beat Detroit, 109-95.
Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler is a smart dude. He’s spent years of offseason work turning himself into a max-level player, and that shows he knows not only how to work but how to attack the game of basketball.
He’s also smart enough to know he shouldn’t go poking the bear when it comes to two future Hall of Fame players in LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
When asked whether the Cleveland Cavaliers star or the Golden State Warriors scorer was the toughest matchup in the NBA, Butler made sure he wasn’t adding any kind of blackboard material to rile up either player.
The best way to defend LeBron or Durant: don’t make them angry.
Smart move, Jimmy.