It always seems to come down to the USA vs. Spain in the Olympics. In 2008 and 2012 they faced each other in the gold medal games, in 2016 in Rio it was in the semi-finals.
The two international powerhouse teams of the past decade (Spain are the defending World Cup champs) will meet again in the men’s quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics — the first round of the win-or-go-home knockout phase of the games.
USA vs. Spain will be played at 12:40 am Eastern time on Tuesday.
In pool play Team USA finished second in Group A behind France, and from there a draw was conducted to seed the final eight teams in the knockout tournament.
The stage is set for the Men's #Olympics basketball Quarter-Finals! ✅
— FIBA #Tokyo2020 (@FIBA) August 1, 2021
If the quarterfinals follow form, the USA will face Australia in the semi-finals in a showdown of two of the gold medal favorites in this tournament. Australia handed Team USA a loss in exhibition play before heading to Tokyo, with the Americans having no answer for Patty Mills and the fluid Boomer offense.
Maybe the best Team USA has looked this year — outside of thrashing inferior teams in Iran and the Czech Republic — was in the second half of an exhibition against Spain in Las Vegas, the Americans final tune-up before flying to Japan. A physical and sharp USA defense forced missed shots and turnovers that allowed the Americans to run, the 3-pointers were falling, Damian Lillard was a force with 19 points and six assists, and the USA won 83-76 in a game that wasn’t that close.
“They’re dangerous if they play as a team,” Spain’s Ricky Rubio said after the contest.
How well the Americans are playing like a team is the big question in Tokyo. They were not enough of a team down the stretch — oversharing the ball on offense and not playing sharp defense — in an Olympics opening loss to France. While they won two games easily since then, Spain is the first time Team USA will be tested again — and by a foe that knows them well.
In the other quarterfinal on the American’s side of the bracket, Australia will be a favorite against Argentina. Australia won a pre-Olympics tuneup between the teams 87-84 on a dramatic 3-pointer at the buzzer by Mills.
On the other side of the bracket, France (against Italy) and Luka Doncic-led Slovenia (against Germany) will be favorites to make it to the medal round, setting up an interesting potential showdown.