2014 Winter Olympics – Day 6 Podcast and Day 7 Schedule

2014-sochi-logoDay 6 was a crazy day for Team USA – no spoilers in the text here but listen to the podcast just below for the whole rundown of today’s events!  Primetime coverage is still going on, so I won’t spoil your fun.

Tomorrow is a big day with medal events in skiing, women’s snowboarding halfpipe, figure skating pairs, speed skating and luge. Men’s hockey also begins, while women’s hockey and curling continues.

2014 Olympic Winter Games – Feb. 12 Schedule 

(ALL TIMES EASTERN)

* – Medal Event
^ – Televised Live

  • 12:00 a.m.: Curling, Men’s Qualification Round-Robin
    Denmark vs. USA (airing at 3 a.m. on NBC Sports Network)
    Norway vs. Germany
    China vs. Switzerland
  • *2:00 a.m.: Alpine Skiing, Women’s Downhill
  • ^3:00 a.m.: Ice Hockey, Women’s Group A Play – Switzerland vs. Finland (MSNBC)
  • ^4:30 a.m.: Nordic Combined, Individual Normal Hill – Ski Jump (NBC Sports Network)
  • 5:00 a.m.: Snowboarding, Women’s Halfpipe, Qualification
  • 5:00 a.m.: Curling, Women’s Qualification Round-Robin
    ^USA vs. China (USA Network)
    Japan vs. Russia
    South Korea vs. Sweden
    Canada vs. Great Britain
  • *7:30 a.m.: Nordic Combined, Individual Normal Hill – Cross-Country
  • ^7:30 a.m.: Women’s Ice Hockey, Group A Play – Canada vs. USA (NBC Sports Network)
  • *9:00 a.m.: Speed Skating, Men’s 1000m
  • *9:15 a.m.: Luge Doubles
  • 10:00 a.m.: Snowboarding, Women’s Halfpipe, Semifinals
  • 10:00 a.m.:  Curling, Men’s Qualification Round-Robin
    Germany vs. China
    Switzerland vs. Great Britain
    Russia vs. Canada
    Denmark vs. Sweden
  • *^10:45 a.m.: Figure Skating, Team Pairs Free Skate (NBC Sports Network)
  • ^12:00 p.m.: Ice Hockey, Men’s Group C Play
    Czech Republic vs. Sweden (USA Network)
    Latvia vs. Switzerland (MSNBC)
  • *12:30 p.m.: Snowboarding, Women’s Halfpipe, Final
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2014 Winter Olympics Podcast – Day 3

2014-sochi-logo

Hi all. Here’s today’s podcast, summarizing Day 3 and leading into Day 4, which includes a number of medal events and the close of figure skating team competition. ALERT: This podcast contains spoilers about events on February 8. (Skip ahead to about 2:15 in to avoid and just hear tomorrow’s schedule.) NBC’s primetime coverage begins tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Stay tuned to the blog for a text schedule posted for tomorrow’s action, with TV times as well. Note that Team USA action begins very early Sunday morning, so stay up if you want to catch them live.

We will also post a guide to viewing the Olympics live or streaming without spoilers.

Thanks for listening!

2014 Winter Olympics – Daily Schedule for February 8

Good morning y’all!  The 2014 Winter Olympics are off and running, and as promised, we’ll be providing daily schedules of the rundown of events, highlighting medal rounds and giving you times and TV listings.

Sochi, Russia, is nine hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, so while there are a number of events that you will be able to watch live on NBC and affiliates (they provide thorough real-time coverage on the weekends and some during the week), the network will use its primetime slot (typically beginning at 8 p.m. ET) to re-air the day’s main events via tape-delay. Check out your local TV listings here.

For today (Saturday, Feb. 8), there’s a full slate of events, but thankfully the Winter Olympics features a much smaller variety of events than the Summer Games, so the list will be short. Unless otherwise indicated, the listed event time will also be its TV airtime (events slated for tape-delay re-air during primetime will be noted).

2014 Olympic Winter Games – Day 2 Schedule
(ALL TIMES EASTERN)

* – Medal Event

  • 12:30 a.m.: Snowboarding, Men’s Slopestyle Semifinals. Americans Chas Guldemond, Ryan Stassel and Sage Kotsenburg compete for a spot in the final later this morning.
  • 1:00 a.m.: Alpine Skiing, Women’s Super-Combined Training
  • 2:00 a.m.: Alpine Skiing, Men’s Downhill Training
  • 3:00 a.m.: Women’s Hockey, Team USA takes on Finland in Group A Play
  • *3:45 a.m.: Snowboarding, Men’s Slopestyle Finals
  • *5:00 a.m.: Cross-Country Skiing, Women’s Skiathlon 15km (Classic + Free) Final. Americans Liz Stephen, Jessica Diggins, Sadie Bjornsen and Holly Brooks will go for Team USA’s first-ever cross-country skiing medal, though none are expected to seriously contend.
  • *6:30 a.m.: Speedskating, Men’s 5000m Final. 
  • 8:00 a.m.: Women’s Hockey, Canada vs. Switzerland in Group A Play
  • 9:30 a.m.: Figure Skating, Team Ice Dance Short Dance
  • 9:30 a.m.: Luge, Men’s Singles Run 1
  • *9:30 a.m.: Biathlon, Men’s 10km Sprint Final
  • 11:10 a.m.: Figure Skating, Team Ladies Short Program
  • 11:30 a.m.: Luge, Men’s Singles Run 2
  • 11:30 a.m.: Ski Jumping, Men’s Normal Hill Qualifying
  • *1:00 p.m.: Skiing, Women’s Moguls Finals
  • 1:05 p.m.: Figure Skating, Team Pairs Free Skate

2014 Winter Olympics Podcast – Day 1 & 2

2014-sochi-logo

Welcome to my blog coverage and commentary for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia!

If you’re familiar with my Olympics blogging from two years ago in London, welcome back and thanks for reading! I plan to bring back several of the features from 2012, including the daily rundown of events and TV listings, as well as guest posts on the winter sports, life in Russia, Team USA fashion and much more.

Additionally, I will post a podcast each morning highlighting the previous day’s events and plugging the current day’s schedule and TV listings.

Here’s today’s podcast, summarizing Day 1 and leading into Friday’s Opening Ceremony, which you can watch tape-delayed on NBC’s coverage beginning at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time. (The Ceremony begins at 11 a.m. ET if you want to find a live stream online.) Sochi, Russia, is 9 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the U.S., so get used to the tape-delay, or inform your employer you’ll be sick “for the next two weeks or so” to catch the streams online.

Thanks for listening!

UPDATE:  The podcast indicates that only Jamie Anderson and Karly Shorr of Team USA qualified for the slopestyle final round. Anderson’s and Shorr’s performances earned them automatic bids in the final heat for slopestyle, while the five remaining Americans on the slopestyle team have the opportunity to earn bids via the semifinal rounds this weekend. Shaun White has already withdrawn from this event due to an injured wrist, but he’s good to go thus far for the halfpipe – his signature event.

Final Team USA Medal Tally from the London 2012 Olympic Games

Competition in the London Olympics has come to a close, and it was an incredibly entertaining and emotion-packed fortnight of sports. We saw a lot of incredible moments and feats of strength and agility. The London Games were fantastic, and now it’s on to Rio in 2016.

Team USA was dominant, winning the most gold and silver and total medals of all participating countries and finishing only to Russia in bronzes. The United States finished with 104 total medals – 46 golds, 29 silvers and 29 bronzes. China was second in the medal standings with 87, followed by Russia with 82, host nation Great Britain with 65 and Germany with 44. Both the U.S. and Great Britain had all-time best Olympic performances.

In team sports, Team USA saw fantastic gold achievements in women’s water polo, women’s soccer, women’s and men’s basketball, women’s gymnastics, with a silver finish in women’s volleyball. Team USA swept gold and silver in women’s beach volleyball and the men’s decathlon, the contest of 10 track and field events that traditionally touts the “World’s Greatest Athlete.” So by logic, the U.S. has the two greatest!

Fantastic individual performances by Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Sanya Richards-Ross, Allyson Felix and others netted multiple medals, and feats by shooter Kim Rhode, judo artist Kayla Harrison, wrestler Jordan Burroughs, swimmer Katie Ledecky and others were timeless moments.

Diver David Boudia won the first American gold medal in diving in decades. Harrison’s gold was the first EVER in American judo. Team USA extended its dominance in women’s basketball, winning a fifth-straight Olympic gold medal, the men’s team reiterated it intends to remain on top in defending its gold from Beijing, and Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings completed an incredible run together as teammates, winning  a third consecutive gold medal in beach volleyball without ever having lost a match in the Olympics.

These were the incredible stories all around that made for an incredible Olympics. Here is a list of all American athletes who medaled in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. Feel free to click their names and learn their stories, see their results and even watch their performances one more time.

American Medalists in the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games

* – World Record
^ – Olympic Record
# – American Record

Note: Athletes who medaled for participating in relay or team qualifying rounds are denoted after semicolons; athletes who participated in medal rounds denoted before semicolons.

Archery (1)

Basketball (2)

Beach Volleyball  (2)

Boxing (2)

Cycling (4)

Diving (4)

Fencing (1)

Gymnastics (6)

Judo (2)

Rowing (3)

Shooting (4)

Soccer (1)

Swimming (31)

Men’s (16)

Women’s (15)

Taekwondo (2)

Tennis (4)

Track and Field (29)

Men’s (15)

Women’s (14)

Volleyball (1)

Water Polo (1)

Wrestling (4)

 

FINAL MEDAL STANDINGS (TOP COUNTRIES)

COUNTRY Athletes Gold Silver Bronze  Total
See names 46 29 29 104
See names 38 27 22 87
See names 24 25 33 82
See names 29 17 19 65
See names 11 19 14 44
See names 7 14 17 38
See names 7 16 12 35
See names 11 11 12 34
See names 13 8 7 28
See names 8 9 11 28
See names 6 6 8 20
See names 6 5 9 20
See names 1 5 12 18
See names 8 4 5 17
See names 3 10 4 17
See names 3 5 9 17

LIVE BLOG: Team USA vs. Spain, Men’s Basketball Gold Medal Game

It’s come to this!  The closing event of the 2012 London Olympics has USA Team USA taking on Spain Spain for the Gold! Check out my Game Preview Here. I’ll live blog here throughout the game. Stay with me, but watch LIVE on NBC and enjoy a great match-up!

GAME UPDATES:

FINAL SCORE: USA 107 – SPAIN 100. USA WINS GOLD!!! USA!!!  American players have found stuffed animals somewhere on the court, and they’re celebrating like kids. Loving it. Just loving it.

12:01 – Hardin misses one again, USA only up 7. but Davis with the clinching rebound! TEAM USA WINS GOLD!!!

11:58 – USA is celebrating but a dumb foul, this game isn’t quite over yet. Spain back to seven points down.  20 seconds left, James Hardin best free throw shooter in the game and he gets the ball. Harden hits one. 13 seconds, USA only up six points. Why are they celebrating? Hardin gets fouled again, he missed one before.

11:57 – Unibrow coming in, Bryant and LBJ coming off, Coach K thinks he’s iced it here. And Coach K showing rare emotion, and I love it.

11:56 – 1 minute left, Navarro has gone cold. USA up 9 points but CP3 has an absolutely phenomenal reverse lay-in!

11:55 – Bron’s three misses, but Kobe goes all out out of bounds to save it, back to CP3 who misses at the shot clock, but that burned a handful of seconds. Clutch.

11:52 – BRON BRON!  FOR THREE!!! Pau Gasol fouls CP3! MOMENTUM SHIFT!

11:51 – 2:45 left, Bron Bron SLAMS it in! Eight point lead.

11:50 – Three and a half minutes left. USA making some subs here. Desperately needed that timeout, can’t call one until a dead ball and they finally get the chance. James, Paul, Kobe, Durant and Love on the floor. LeBron is on Marc Gasol – both have four fouls, so they can’t afford to be too physical. Durant tips the ball out, good defense, then comes up with a rebound. CP3 draws Llull’s foul.

11:47 – Kobe misses an open 3 with 5 minutes left. Durant grabs a defensive board, USA up 8. Kobe gets the offensive rebound and puts it in! Melo may be hurt though. Navarro makes a shot., Spain back to eight down. Spain playing tough tough defense, and Kobe turns the ball over. Rudy finishes Navarro’s miss. Melo is very hurt and throws the ball away, and he’ll come out, James coming in.

11:45 – Pau back in, misses a J, Love with the rebound. Carmelo misses an open shot himself though, and Pau drives and draws a foul. He’ll take two, make one.

11:43 – USA has Melo, Paul, Durant, Love and Kobe on the floor, six minutes left. Kobe fouled on a three attempt, gets three shots. Kobe hits two of three. USA up 8., 6 minutes left.

11:41 – Kobe misses a three, but great play by Melo to tip the rebound out to Paul. Durant finishes the series with a 3, now has 30 points! 156 points in this Olympics thus far, that’s the most all-time for an American at one Olympics.

11:39 – LeBron with his fourth foul, getting Pau in the face. Dangerous situation here, LeBron has been important late in the game. Marc Gasol comes into the game, Love in for James. Spain miss, Durant rebound, but misses the open 3.

11:38 – Rare miscue by Paul, missing LeBron on the pass. Needed that momentum point.

11:37 – Timeout, USA up by six.

11:36 – Paul with another three! Yes he can score!  And he follows that up after a Spain miss with a beautiful shot, five points in a matter of seconds. Rudy Fernandez barrels into Paul to stop a third run, foul called.

11:35 – Start of Fourth Quarter, Paul, James, Durant, Bryant and Melo on the floor for USA. LeBron puts in the layup.

11:32 – END OF THIRD QUARTER, USA up one point 83-82.

11:30 – Iguodala in the game to spell LeBron and spare him some fouls. He fouls Spain to prevent an easy basket, good defensive play. Deron, Durant, Melo, Andre and Bryant in the game for USA.

11:28 – Durant hits an open three after Spain ties it. USA 83, Spain 80. Melo misses a three, both teams have missed last possessions.

11:27 – NBC CUTS TO A COMMERCIAL DURING GAME ACTION. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE. ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE. We just barely get back in time to see a Durant three, but Gasol answers and Spain is down two.

11:24 – Durant creates a shot, off-balance jumper falls and USA builds a three point lead. Kobe steals and draws a foul under the basket. Kobe, not LeBron, is taking over this game.

11:22 – The Lake Show here in London – Kobe drains a pretty three. USA up two, Love gets the offensive board but Kobe misses a three. James picks up his third foul on the other end on Ibaka, who hits one of two.

11:21 – KOBE DRIVES AND SLAMS! Calderon helpless. USA ties it at 68, then gets the steal. CP3 LOBS TO LEBRON!!!  BEAUTIFUL! That’s what we like to see, USA bringing back the power game. Gasol does hit a shot on the foul though and has a free throw to take the lead…good.

11:19 – LeBron one-on-one with Ibaka, the finger roll! Need to see more penetration like that from the King to open up the perimeter. Love knocks the ball out of Pau’s hands but gets called for the foul. I just don’t see why they called that.

11:19 – Why is Tyson Chandler guarding Jose Calderon? Mismatch, luckily Spain doesn’t get any points just yet. Love in for Chandler and immediately rebounds Navarro’s miss but misses his own three. He can actually hit those though. Gasol is dominating this game right now and works around Love for the lay-in.

11:18 – Questionable shot by James, Spain recovers and Pau slams it in for the lead. USA needs to be better at shot selection.

11:17 – There’s Pau Gasol drawing more fouls, though I question the actual contact, but it’s Chandler with the foul. With Love on the bench, we need Chandler to stay in this game. Spain down 1.

11:16 – USA hits two free throws, up four on Spain.

11:15 – CP3 for Three…WOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!  WOOO!!!!!!!!! WOO!!!!!!!!  Pau follows with a hook shot.

11:13 – START OF SECOND HALF – USA puts all five starters back on the floor, but Marc Gasol not in for Spain.

Switching updates to the top of the blog so when you refresh, you’ll see the latest updates!  Future live blogs, I’ll work to do it in this format, or incorporate a widget or plugin that does this automatically for me.

HALFTIME – USA 59, Spain 58

Halftime reactions:  USA has got to work on perimeter defense. Navarro is too clutch for our own good, and Fernandez is also capable of putting up points. USA is in good position size wise with Marc Gasol in foul trouble very early, but USA also has fouls of its own to consider, with Melo and Deron Williams having three each. Westbrook has been shaky, so Paul and even LeBron should take the point. Kevin Love has been great under the basket, his strong play must continue to ensure USA gets more scoring opportunities. Durant has been somewhat shaky as well, though he’s scored points, but he needs to hit those threes he’s taking.

Team USA has been close with several opponents in this tournament at the half, including Argentina, but generally pulls away late. If they can make adjustments out of the half, that could continue, but Spain is playing at a level they haven’t seen yet.

STARTING FIVE:

Spain SPAIN

C – Marc Gasol
F – Pau Gasol
F – Rudy Fernandez
G – Jose Calderon
G – Juan Carlos Navarro

USA TEAM USA

C – Tyson Chandler
F –  Kevin Durant
F – LeBron James
G – Kobe Bryant
G – Chris Paul

10:06 a.m.: Tyson Chandler challenges in the paint early and gives Team USA the initial lead. But Navarro hits a three pointer and draws the foul for the 4-point play. Durant answers with a three to retake the lead.

10:07 a.m.: Chandler playing cautiously here and Team USA is not double teaming the Gasols early, and Pau sinks a FG. James penetrates on the next series and takes a shot but misses, gets his own board and Durant ends up finishing on his own miss. Watch for the Americans on the offensive glass, they’ve been great thus far.

10:09:  Boy, maybe we were wrong about Navarro not being a scoring threat. Different games call for different strategies. He sinks already his second three from the perimeter. He’ll have to be reckoned with. But we have Durant, and he answers with another 3 of his own.

10:10: Buuuttt…Navarro is back. Spain gets two second chances and Navarro hits another 3. USA sloppy in the paint. Bryant hits a beautiful fadeaway three over Pau defending him. A little Lakers drama in London?

10:11 Durant draws what’s called an “unsportsmanlike foul” – essentially an Olympics technical foul. This game is going to get physical and chippy. USA will take two free throws and keep possession. Melo checks into the game for Chandler as USA decides to go smaller.

10:13 Just raining threes. Navarro hits another three, sandwiched between treys by Bryant and Melo. Spain is forcing the defensive emphasis to the outside.

10:15 Bron Bron playing some D, then facilitating the passing that culminates with an Anthony dribble and pull up J. Melo answers on the next possession after a Spain miss with another 3. Melo is scoring early and that’s important.

10:16 – CP3 and Deron Williams on court at the same time, USA needs to answer Navarro. CP3 on Navarro, but he still manages to drive and take a good shot, though it misses. Ibaka in the game for Spain, giving them a clear and menacing size advantage.

10:18 – Kevin Love in the game and factoring immediately with an offensive rebound. Russell Westbrook also into the game, and apparently he’s feeling okay after rolling his ankle in the semis against Argentina.

10:20 – Deron can hit threes, too! Spain keeping it close though, and Ibaka is a good size against Love, grabbing the board and draws a foul. Spain only down by seven points.

10:21 – Deron dishes to Love at the post and he puts it in for a 9 point lead, Spain timeout. USA 30 – Spain 21.

10:24 – USA has Westbrook, Durant, Love, Deron and Melo on the court and Spain was putting on a bit of a run, but Durant drains a three and that’s his 12th point in the first quarter alone. Deron takes a seat for Paul. Really sweet alley-oop finish by Rudy.

10:26 – AWESOME defense by Durant, breaking up a fast-break counterattack by Spain and then blocking a buzzer 3 shot by Pau Gasol to close the first quarter.

END OF 1st:  USA 35, Spain 27.

10:28 – USA keeps Melo, Durant, Love, Westbrook and Paul on the court. Rudy hits an open three to start the quarter and pull Spain within five. Rudy will score if he’s left open.

10:30 – Melo to the bench with two early fouls. Kobe and LeBron back in the game for USA. Melo needs to be careful, we need his threes. CP3 also has two fouls. Spain has drawn the most fouls in this tournament. Spain within one.

10:32 – There’s LeBron, driving and finishing past Ibaka. He may orchestrate the change of pace we need. Chandler is in the game but gives up a floater to Marc. CP3 and Chandler shoot for that patented Hornets alley-oop that we all miss in New Orleans, but it goes out of bounds. Spain has momentum.

10:33 – Spain’s Sergio Rodriguez hits a three after multiple passes and Ibaka is stuffed under the basket. Spain takes a two-point lead, 39-37. Chandler part of a double-T foul and sits for Love, who does what he does best on the offensive glass and finishes to tie at 39. Durant then with the steal and misses on the finish, but gets to the charity stripe. USA needs to hit all its free throws because they will not match Spain’s fouls drawn with a perimeter-heavy game.

10:35 – Durant hits both, pulls ahead 41-39. Spain quickly answers with an open 3 by Llull while Love has a foul under the basket, so Spain retains possession but then turns it over. Ibaka now sits with two fouls. LeBron to the stripe, and he hits two of two.

10:38 – Timeout, 6:24 left in the half. Spain leads by one. NBC says LeBron just passed Michael Jordan for the all-time lead in Olympic scoring. What an epic year he’s having – Finals MVP, NBA MVP, NBA Champ. Olympic champ?

10:39 – Durant hits the pull up AND one as Marc rotates over to defend, too late. Durant hits the free throw.

10:40 – Marc Gasol fouls Love attempting to get the offensive rebound. Marc has four fouls already and that’s huge for USA. Love is a master at boxing out opposing bigs. Durant missed an open three and while he has 17 points, he needs to be hitting the shots he’s given.

10:45 – Navarro finally misses a three, and Love draws another foul by Felipe Reyes. Love may be the linchpin to victory for USA. Both teams were shooting 52 percent from the floor before that miss. Love hits both, then takes a seat. USA goes with Melo, Durant, LeBron, Westbrook and and Deron, up three after Spain hits a triple.

10:45 – LeBron dukes Gasol into defending a three, then pulls in and pulls up for a beautiful shot. Spain misses and Navarro fouls Russell Westbrook, who makes one of two.

10:48 – Reyes fouls. Right now with Love and Chandler sitting, we have LeBron playing center. Amazing to watch this guy. Also amazing to see some of those Spanish fans in the seats, as NBC has been giving us plenty of zoom-in shots of. Bron gets a second chance on Anthony’s miss and finishes, USA up 6. And then LeBron gets the defensive rebound. Doing it all.

10:49 – Pau takes LeBron one-on-one and wins the battle, then Spain finishes off the attack. Sign of NBA Finals battles to come with the Lakers getting Dwight Howard? But there’s Deron with a three, yes he can hit them too! Spain down 7. James takes a seat, shooting 60% from the field.

10:51 – Deron fouls Rudy, and Spain will take shots as they’re in the bonus, that’s his third. Williams sits for Paul, which will allow Westbrook to focus on shots. He does but misses an open three, but there’s Love again under the basket, and he’ll go the line. Serge Ibaka comes back in the game. Love hits one.

10:53 – Gasol’s shot is short but Spain gets free throws after a foul on Anthony, his third. Ibaka is the one shooting them though, but he does hit both. Doug Collins on NBC isn’t happy with the frequency of these touch foul calls.

10:55 – Paul takes a chance beyond the arc but misses, and Spain misses to follow. Iguodala called for an unsportsmanlike foul on Fernandez. Rudy hits both and Spain gets the ball to close the half.

10:58 – Navarro has been an incredible force, scoring 19 points in this half, but can’t get a shot off as the buzzer ends. Team USA up 59-58.

 

Gold Medal Preview: Men’s Basketball, USA vs. Spain

Team USA will be looking at a Spanish language version of itself from four years ago when it meets Spain in the Olympic Gold Medal Game today at 10 a.m. ET (9 a.m. CT).

Back then, in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Spain took the American Redeem Team to the brink in an epic Gold Medal Game many of us in the States – including myself – watched in the wee hours of the morning after stumbling in after a Saturday night out. That game ended 118-107, with Team USA returning to a Gold standard of basketball after a relatively poor performance netted bronze in Athens in 2004.

Familiar Foes

This Spanish team is arguably better than the 2008 version, and is looking for its own brand of redemption after such a hard-fought loss four years ago. The players are not unfamiliar with each other: they met in a pre-Olympics international friendly, a game which the U.S. won handily, and  the bulk of both teams’ impact players come from the NBA’s Western Conference.

Spain’s Pau and Marc Gasol (L.A. Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies), Serge Ibaka (OKC Thunder) and Rudy Fernandez (Portland Trailblazers/Denver Nuggets) have played with or against the United States’ Kobe Bryant (Lakers), Kevin Durant (Thunder), Chris Paul (New Orleans Hornets/LA Clippers) and Carmelo Anthony (Nuggets). Tyson Chandler (Hornets/Mavericks) and Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves) – Team USA’s biggest guys – both have experience playing against these guys too.

Size Up Front

Spain will feature the most talented size Team USA has come up against thus far, with the two seven-foot Gasol brothers capable of playing a deadly combo at center and power forward, and OKC’s Serge Ibaka also providing a defensive specialist off the bench. Expect the bulk of the minutes to go to the Gasols. Pau played more than 30 minutes in a double-double effort in the semifinal against Russia, grabbing 10 rebounds on defense and scoring 16 points, and Marc played just under 30 minutes, scoring 11 points.

In the quarterfinal against France, Pau Gasol played 32 minutes, collecting 11 boards and scoring 10 points while drawing 8 fouls. Marc also played 32 minutes and put up 14 points with 8 rebounds (7 defensive) and drawing 7 fouls. Spain does lead the tournament in fouls drawn, with the Gasols drawing on average more than five fouls per game. The primary question here will be can Chandler maintain a presence in the game without getting into foul trouble too early on, forcing him out of the game and the smaller Love into a defensive role against Marc Gasol. James will be charged with guarding one of the Gasols – likely Marc – and should not be underestimated for his defense. Having fresh bigs in the game longer and out of foul trouble will be key to freeing up James and the rest to focus on offense.

Spanish Weapons Not Named Gasol

Spain’s role players – Fernandez at the 2 guard, Jose Calderon and Sergio Llull at the point and Juan Carlos Navarro in the backcourt – are not as talented as USA’s Paul, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams and its elite shooters, but they are still threats. Navarro has been nursing an injury and has played about 20 minutes the last two games, not posing a scoring threat but still capable of dishing out assists.

Calderon factored heavily into the hard-fought victory against taller Russia, playing 33 minutes and scoring 14 of Spain’s 67 points with three assists. He did post 4 personal fouls though, which is one short of fouling out in Olympics play. It remains to be seen if he can keep up with the more agile Westbrook, Paul and even to an extent Williams if they’re on the court at the same time. Llull played 20 minutes that game with Calderon in foul trouble.

Fernandez is the greatest threat of these three, known for his shooting ability outside – he hit three of seven three-point attempts against Russia, but he is prone to cold shooting nights like his 0-5 three-point performance against France in the quarters. He’ll be guarded by Bryant while he’s in the game, and Bryant has seen Fernandez in the Western Conference plenty of times. Williams will cover Fernandez if Rudy is on the court when (and if) USA runs its dual-guard rotation with Deron and CP3 on the court together, but you may see Durant playing some on him as well, depending on Spain and USA’s lineups.

Spain is shooting 50 percent from the field and averaging 78 points per game – a far cry from Team USA’s 117 points per game – but has the size capable of dealing with Team USA if it can be drawn into foul trouble early on.

Team USA’s Game Plan

Size isn’t the key weapon for Team USA in this tournament – it’s offensive firepower. It’s been largely the LeBron James show for Team USA. He and Paul have largely orchestrated the Americans’ transition game, driving the ball to the paint and either scoring or dishing to open snipers like Anthony and Durant. Team USA has feasted on three-pointers in this tournament, draining several in the fourth quarter semi against Argentina. Team USA has been remarkably adept in the paint,

It’s been little challenge for Team USA’s scorers to come up big when needed, and it’s been a different guy each quarter seemingly, with James providing the consistent threat, turning it on in key moments like the closing of the tight game USA played against Lithuania. James has averaged an impressive 5.9 assists per game, tops on a team with assist machine Cp3. James and Paul have been critical in the rebounding game as well – posting 5.9 and 5.6 boards per game.

That’s the role James has been asked to play in a lineup stacked with firepower. Durant and Anthony have been two of the most reliable scorers for Team USA – KD has averaged 18 points per game in this tournament and is shooting an awesome 56 percent from the 3-point line, but Melo isn’t to be outdone, averaging 17.4 PPG and shooting 53 percent beyond the arc. Bryant has provided the scoring lead at times as well.

Chandler and Love won’t be asked to shoulder the scoring load – that will come from the outside – but will need to provide some form of defensive presence against Spain’s bigs for as long as they can while helping out on the rebounding front. Love has been the rebounding force we’ve come to expect from his prowess in the NBA, bringing in 7.4 per game in limited minutes.

Keys to Victory

Team USA must make Spain work for its points without getting into foul trouble and giving them free passage to the free-throw line. Make Fernandez and to an extent Calderon beat you and complement the Gasols inside. Chandler hasn’t played much but will be asked to counter the Gasols as best he can in what time he can. Let James and Durant continue to focus on the offensive front – though there will be a mismatch favoring Team USA if the Gasols are guarding these guys on the other end of the court.

Team USA’s biggest threat in this tournament came in the Lithuania game, when they shot only 30 percent from the 3-point line. That can’t happen for the tournament’s most prolific 3-point shooting team. The Americans have attempted the most threes with a whopping 256, but they’ve also shot the best at 45 percent per game. That must continue – Anthony, Durant, Bryant and the rest need to continue to hit those shots.

The open look at the three will come from Paul, James, Williams and Westbrook to an extent off the bench continuing to penetrate into the paint. If the threes aren’t falling for Team USA, look for James to turn it on and take more shots on his own. Westbrook may be a key change-of-pace scoring threat.

See Ya, Coach

Worth mentioning is that this will be Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final gig coaching Team USA in the Olympics and international competition. Coach K brought this team back from disarray after a disappointment in Athens, first winning the bronze medal in the 2006 FIBA world championships but helping lead the Redeem Team to gold in 2008, and clinching gold again at the World Championships in 2010. For a college coach, Coach K – who is second to none – has done a fantastic job managing NBA-size egos and bringing these guys together in a system that has dominated all competition. This was a much needed stabilizing presence for this program to return to its former glories, and here’s hoping his successor will continue that trend.

You will also probably see the last of Kobe Bryant in the Olympics, which is sad considering he’s been a force for Team USA and has been a strong supporter of the Americans in many other events, being a constant presence at women’s basketball, beach volleyball and swimming events. James and Anthony may also be done after two Olympics.

Prediction

USA took down Spain easily, 100-78 in Barcelona in a pre-Olympics exhibition, a game where James scored 25 and Anthony put up 27. Team USA pulled away late with its perimeter shooters, despite losing Chandler early to fouls, but this Spain team has had several games to improve, recover from injury and establish team chemistry. They haven’t been the greatest scoring threat in this tournament, but they are not to be overlooked until the final buzzer sounds. Still, I think Team USA has been shooting so well, and Love and James are up to the task defensively enough to keep USA in front at the end. It may be a tighter game through three quarters than we’d like, but James has displayed impressive dominance and stamina at the end of games, and I feel USA will have enough open shots near the perimeter to take this game and repeat as Gold Medal Champions.