HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The U.S. Men’s Senior National Team plays its final Olympic tune-up on Tuesday. And though both Brazil and Argentina provided the Americans with tough tests, Tuesday’s game against Spain at the Palau Sant Jordi arena in Barcelona is easily the most-anticipated of the U.S. Team’s five exhibitions.
Spain is the consensus favorite to meet the U.S. in the gold medal game on Aug. 12. So, even though there’s a lot of basketball to be played between now and then, the hosts may not want to show their hand on Tuesday.
“It’s an exhibition game. I think both teams are going to try to [use] different lineups, going to try maybe different stuff, but at the end of the day you know you’re not going to show a lot of things to the other team,” Jose Calderon said Monday. “You’re not going to have a medal if you win or if you lost tomorrow.”
Either way, Spain has the size – with a frontline of Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka – that can give the U.S. trouble inside. Thus far, U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski has played small quite a bit, but that hasn’t really worked.
Through their first four exhibition games, the Americans have been outscored 116-115 in 58 minutes without any bigs (Tyson Chandler, Kevin Love or Anthony Davis) on the floor. Meanwhile, in 58 minutes with Chandler in the game, they’ve outscored their opponents 174-91. That’s like winning a 40-minute game by 57 points.
(We’ll have more lineup and plus-minus data from the U.S. exhibitions here in the Hang Time blog on Wednesday.)
So it will be interesting to see how much playing time that Chandler and Love get against Spain. Love hasn’t exactly played well, but size is size. Hey, maybe Davis needs to see a few minutes in this one.
The game tips off at 10:30 p.m. in Barcelona, and can be seen live at 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN 2. NBA TV will have a replay at 7 p.m. ET.
— FOURTH QUARTER —
— 6:29 p.m. The U.S. continued to struggle against the zone until James Harden hit a pair of threes to close the scoring. Final score: USA 100, Spain 78
A few more thoughts…
The U.S. went zone themselves for a handful of possessions down the stretch. That’s the second time they’ve done that with Anthony Davis on the floor.
Carmelo Anthony led the way offensively, scoring 27 points on 10-for-15 from the field, including 5-for-8 from 3-point range. LeBron James also shot 10-for-15, finishing with 25 points and seven assists.
Pau Gasol led Spain with 19 points, while Serge Ibaka finished with 16, all in the first half.
Kobe Bryant has been pretty inconsistent offensively, but he absolutely dogged Juan Carlos Navarro on the other end of the floor. The U.S. pressure defense, led by Bryant and Russell Westbrook, was really the difference.
Deron Williams was the point guard for most of those zone offense possessions. He needs to get into the paint and make something happen.
— 6:22 p.m. Spain actually goes back to its stars in the fourth quarter, but the game is basically out of reach, as the U.S. scores 20 points on a 10-possession stretch.
— 6:18 p.m. LeBron makes it a 21-point game with a pair of pull-up threes on isolations against Gasol.
— 6:14 p.m. Tyson Chandler fouls out with 8:08 left, but it doesn’t matter much, as the U.S. builds a 17-point lead. We haven’t seen much of Spain’s best players in the second half. And Marc Gasol has not played at all, dealing with an injured shoulder.
— THIRD QUARTER —
— 6:05 p.m. Melo’s big night continues, as he takes advantage of the FIBA rules and tips in a James Harden free throw before it leaves the cylinder. But the U.S. gets just two scores on its final nine possessions of the third quarter, struggling against the zone. Spain gets within 12, but it’s a 14-point game heading into the fourth.
— 5:59 p.m. Lots of zone from Spain in the second half of this third period. Russell Westbrook beat it a couple of times with pull-up jumpers at the elbow, and then gets a dunk off a steal. But the U.S. scores just once on their next five possessions against a zone, and that’s a Melo put-back.
— 5:47 p.m. More turnovers for Spain, preventing them from taking further advantage of the size mismatches. And with Durant draining a pair of threes, the U.S. scores 12 points on their first six possessions of the half and builds a 15-point lead.
— 5:40 p.m. With Chandler in foul trouble, the U.S. starts the half playing small. Pau Gasol takes advantage with an easy post-up turnaround over LeBron.
— SECOND QUARTER —
— 5:22 p.m. Felipe Reyes had a pretty bad half, but he closes the scoring with a pair of free throws, making it a 48-40 game at the break.
The highlight of the half was a double-clutch dunk by Kobe Bryant, on a post-up and baseline spin move.
Serge Ibaka has played well offensively, but has three goaltending calls on the other end.
It’s been a pretty quick pace: 41 possessions each in the half.
— 5:19 p.m. The U.S. is starting to pour it on. Their pressure defense has forced Spain into 11 turnovers, and as usual, they’ve flourished on the break. They take a 13-point lead before Rudy Fernandez hits a three.
— 5:11 p.m. Melo is carrying the U.S. offense, with 18 points on 7-for-9 from the field. After a short CP3 pull-up and a LeBron transition bucket, the U.S. has a 37-32 lead.
— 5:04 p.m. Back-to-back threes from Melo and LeBron give the U.S. its first lead since the opening minute, 28-26.
— 5:01 p.m. Slow start to the period, as the teams combine for just four points on the first 10 possessions. Tyson Chandler picks up his third foul, defending Pau in the post, with 7:41 on the clock. Again, Anthony replaces him and the U.S. goes small.
— FIRST QUARTER —
— 4:55 p.m. After missing an ill-advised three, Deron Williams gets a big and-one on a drive. That sparks an 8-1 run to end the quarter, capped by a Westbrook drive past new Blazer Victor Claver, for the U.S. Spain leads 23-21 after one.
— 4:48 p.m. Serge Ibaka scores 10 straight points for Spain, eight of them off dimes from Jose Calderon. Then a Victor Sada baseline jumper makes it a 22-13 lead for the hosts. Spain is just carving up the U.S. defense.
— 4:43 p.m. The Melo/LeBron/Durant frontline hasn’t been very good offensively thus far, but Melo hits a pair of threes to keep the U.S. in it.
— 4:39 p.m. After Paul’s three, the U.S. goes seven possessions without a score. That stretch includes five turnovers. Meanwhile, Spain scores on three straight possessions to grab an early 10-3 lead. And then Chandler picks up his second foul. He’s replaced by Carmelo Anthony.
— 4:36 p.m. Paul and Pau Gasol trade threes to get the scoring started. Meanwhile, Chandler picks up his first foul early. That could be trouble, given the U.S. Team’s lack of success playing small.
— 4:30 p.m. Krzyzewski starts the same group that started Sunday’s win vs. Argentina: Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Tyson Chandler
John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.