Spain's Second-Half Surge Sinks Russia
Semifinal: SPAIN 67, RUSSIA 59
Spain's goal of reaching the Olympic finals looked to be in danger after a putrid first half. Going into the halftime break, Spain's offense only managed 20 points on 21% shooting.
But Spain's fortunes immediately improved after the halftime break. Spain got a much needed, and timely jolt, from key perimeter guys, Jose Caldron and Rudy Fernandez.
Calderon (14 pts) frankly looked old in group play and he was failing to shoot the ball up to his capabilities. On Friday, he was crucial in Spain's second half comeback by knocking down four 3-pointers in the half.
Rudy (11 pts) had his jumper working today as well, and he finished the game with three 3pt. makes. Spain hit 7-of-12 3PA in the second half after shooting just 2-for-11 behind the arc in the first half (shot 55% overall in the second half).
It didn't hurt that Russia helped Spain further by coughing up the ball seven times in the 4th quarter.
Spain's defense was stellar for the second game in a row. Held a normally high-functioning Russian offense to 38% shooting. Russia never really burned Spain with back cuts and Spain took away the easy buckets around the rim that Russia thrives on.
Instead Spain encouraged Russia to toss up shots on the perimeter; a strategy we were in favor of in our semifinal preview. Russia ended up attempting 27 shots behind the 3pt. line, nearly 10 more 3PA than their Olympic average.
Russia didn't help their cause by shooting 26% on those 27 attempts. We mentioned in our Olympic preview their mediocre outside shooting has been an underrated sorespot for a few years. Another perennial weakness came into play today as Russia made 6-of-12 at the FT line.
Both Gasols were terrific patrolling the painted area. Their help was on point and their challenges at the rim caused Russia to shoot 36% on 2PA. Marc was particularly spry with his help all over the floor.
Marc (11 pts, 4 rebs, 3 assts, 2 blks) has been noticeably more active over the last two games. Marc came up big down the stretch by making plays in the post. He drew some fouls and made two nifty moves: an old-school running hook and a masterful countermove drop-step that earned him a +1.
Pau (16 pts, 12 rebs) had another full-service type of game: hit long jumpers, finished on cuts, drove the ball, passed well out of doubles, rebounded and protected the rim. Both brothers did a nice job accepting the Russian doubles and surveying the floor.
Can't fault Russia's defensive effort too much as they held Spain to 37.5% shooting. They contested well, as usual, it's just Spain was able to make some difficult shots.
Russia swarmed the ball down low as usual. This worked well in the first half but Spain was able to make Russia pay for it in the second half. In the second half, the ball movement was crisp when the Gasols were doubled.
Nonetheless, it was the correct gameplan: get the ball out of the Gasol bros' hands and make the perimeter guys beat you. Spain came into this game shooting 31% from deep.
Andrei Kirilenko (10 pts, 8 rebs, 3 blks, 2 stls) couldn't make shots from anywhere on the floor vs. Spain. Had some good outside looks but couldn't get the ball to fall. Also had a tough time finishing shots in close. He did do a good job drawing contact again, but he just couldn't hit from the FT line (5-for-10).
Sergey Monya had his shooting stroke working for the second game in a row, but all his nine points came in the 1st half.
Timo Mozgov (4 pts) was a non-factor on Friday after he gave Marc Gsaol and Spain problems in group play. In place of Timo's no-show, Sasha Kahn did step up to score 14 points primarily on rolls and cuts. Kahn was really the only player who was able to finish at the rim vs. Spain.
Alexey Shved (2 pts, 7 assts, 2 TOs) couldn't get his jumper to fall for the third time in four games. But he wasn't a total lost cause as he set up his teammates with some perfectly placed passes.
Russia's Olympics run isn't over yet as they play Argentina for bronze on Sunday (11am London time). Spain's win sets up the much-anticipated matchup with Team USA for Gold (3pm).