London: Boomers vs Spain Preview

London: Boomers vs Spain Preview

Read Marc Howard's exclusive preview of the Boomers second pool match against world number two Spain on Tuesday night.

After suffering a heart-breaking 75-71 loss to Brazil to open their London campaign, the Boomers have little time to think about what could have been as they prepare to play world number two Spain on Tuesday night Australian time.

A third quarter drought against the Brazilians saw the Boomers look all but done in their opening game before a furious last period surge on the back of some offensive magic from David Andersen pulled them back within a single basket with less than a minute to play.

But for a an errant foot violation, the Boomers could well have had the ball and enough time for a good shot either to tie or even win the game.

Instead, they now face the task of needing to get three wins from their remaining four matches against Spain, China, Great Britain and Russia to be ensured of not facing the top seed from Pool A – most likely the USA – in the crossover.

Whilst the Brazilian result has clearly made the Boomers task that much harder, believe it or not there are some positives they will take from the game.

Brazil are expected to be a top four team in London, and the Boomers simply refused to be steamrolled by their quartet of NBA stars even when they were down by double-figures.  The fightback they showed augurs well for the rest of the tournament.

The fact they also went within four points of the South Americans despite turning the ball over 19 times and hitting just a single three-pointer up until late in the final period shows plenty of room for improvement.

They will certainly need significant improvement however if they are to cause the upset of the tournament by defeating Spain.

The Spaniards include NBA superstar Pau Gasol of the LA Lakers, and his brother Marc who also plays in the US with the Memphis Grizzlies.  Pau and Marc are 214cm and 216cm respectively and despite their size have surprisingly multi-faceted games.  They are deft passers, particularly off the pick and roll, with their height allowing them to see easily over opposition defences.

The Gasols aren’t the only players with NBA experience on the Spanish team either with Rudy Fernandez, Serge Ibaka, Jose Calderon, Victor Claver and Juan Carlos Navarro all also having played in the US.  For those counting that means that seven (or more than half) of the Spanish roster is either currently in the NBA or played there recently.

Spain go legitimately 12 deep, and that’s even without electric Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio who will miss London due to knee surgery.

They have enviable size, are deadly three-point shooters (11-of-19 in their first game) and lethal in transition. Spain came seriously close to defeating the US in Beijing’s gold medal game and are tabbed as the team most likely to go one step further this time around.

The main core of the Spaniards have also been playing together for years and will have no issue coming together as a unit in London.  They cruised to a 97-81 win over China in their opening match of the Games with no player playing more than 28 minutes and all 12 on the roster hitting the floor.

Pau Gasol led the scoring in their opener with 21 points, adding 11 rebounds and four assists as one of four Spanish players to score in double-figures. 

Spain are a supremely potent offensive outfit and if anything, that might be their Achilles heel. Simply because they can score so easily and in so many ways, they are not always as focused as they need to be defensively. That could just open the way for offensive weapons like Andersen and Patty Mills to have big games. 

The Boomers played Spain twice in the lead-up to London and pushed them both times. They lost Game One 75-69 and Game Two 81-75 but were right in each match right until the last few minutes. Ultimately they couldn’t find an answer for Pau Gasol, who top-scored for the Spaniards in both games.

Those warm-up games should have given the Boomers confidence that they can indeed match it with the star-studded line-up of Spain. 

If the Boomers can minimise their turnovers and find some touch from the perimeter, they have a chance to cause the upset. They have nothing to lose in this match given it was never one of the games they would have pencilled in as one of the three they needed to win in pool play.

That might just free the Boomers up to do something special.

Boomers Keys to Victory
- Limit the offence of Pau Gasol by pressuring Spain’s passes into the post and forcing him to pass out of quick double-teams from different spots on the floor;
- Find the Spanish shooters like Fernandez, Calderon and Navaro, particularly in transition, as no less than seven Spaniards connected on triples in their opening game;
- Shut down the Spanish fast break by pressuring the outlet passes, turning the ball handler and crashing the offensive glass;
- Get physical with the Spanish big men and squeeze them out of the paint;
- Get the confidence of players like Brad Newley and Joe Ingles up by finding them some open looks and transition buckets early on;
- Take care of the ball