Spain established itself as the chief rival to the United States in international men’s basketball over the past 15 years, playing – but losing – to the US in the medal rounds in each of the last three Summer Olympics. Now, the top two teams in the world will clash in the quarterfinals, with the loser eliminated from medal contention.
Team USA beat Spain 118-107 in the 2008 gold medal game, then repeated that performance with a 107-100 win in the 2012 final.
Spain searching for signature Olympic win over US
The two teams met a round earlier in 2016, with the Americans knocking out the Spaniards 82-76 in the semifinals. The three games left Team USA with three gold medals, while Spain settled for two silvers and a bronze. The story was the same at each Olympics: The United States survived a valiant effort by Spain to walk away with a narrow victory.
Overall, the USA holds a 16-2 record over Spain in Olympic and World Cup competition. But the United States doesn’t enter the quarterfinals with the same aura of invincibility it has carried throughout most of the Dream Team era. The Americans lost twice in exhibition games in the runup to the 2020 Olympics. Team USA also dropped its opener in Tokyo to France.
|USA vs. Spain Basketball Odds (via FanDuel Sportsbook)|
|USA (-12.5): -114||Spain (+12.5): -106|
|USA: -1100||Spain: +600|
|Over 179.5: -114||Under 179.5: -106|
That meant that the United States finished second in its pool and fourth overall heading into the knockout rounds. That allowed it to avoid the undefeated group leaders in the quarterfinals, but led to the matchup with 2019 FIBA World Cup winner Spain – one neither team relishes at this early stage.
“If you’re going to get that gold medal, you’re going to beat everybody,” Spanish center Marc Gasol said after learning of the pairing. “At that point, it doesn’t matter, the order.”
Slovenia, France, Australia also quarterfinal favorites
Team USA enters the matchup as a solid 12.5-point favorite over Spain, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. But that’s the kind of line that suggests the Spaniards have a shot at an upset. Spain’s roster includes three NBA players, including veteran center Marc Gasol and point guard Ricky Rubio, along with a host of players who played for real Madrid and Barcelona in the Spanish professional league.
“This Olympics is just going to get better as far as basketball is concerned,” Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich told reporters. “The teams are all pretty passionate and very talented and have a lot of individual players that people will enjoy on TV.”
The United States isn’t the biggest favorite of the quarterfinal round. That honor goes to Slovenia, which comes in as a 16-point pick over Germany. In the other two matchups, France (-8.5) takes on Italy, while Australia (-8.5) battles Argentina. The winner of the USA vs. Spain game will see the Australia vs. Argentina winner in the semifinals.