The warning signs have been there from the jump for the Spanish national team. In their Olympic opener they struggled early against China then nearly collapsed late against Great Britain. Apparently none of those warning signs were enough. So perhaps today’s 77-74 loss to Russia will finally be the wakeup call for the team many saw as a lock for the gold medal game versus the United States.
Holding leads have been a problem for Pau Gasol and the Lakers so it’s only fitting the problem has followed him to London.
Spain jumped on Russia early. By the end of the first quarter it was a 28-11 lead for the Spaniards and a win was looking academic.
But quiet as kept the Russians have been one of the better teams in the Olympic hoops tournament and they showed it today.
Led by Vitaly Fridzon’s 24 points, Russia came storming back outscoring Spain 45-25 over the next two quarters. Victor Khryapa hit a clutch triple late to pretty much seal the deal. For good measure Spain put the ball in the hands of Marc Gasol at midcourt just to ensure they had no chance to answer Khryapa’s big shot.
Russia held on for a win that moves them ahead of Spain in Group B.
Pau Gasol had one of his better games in London dropping 20 on a highly efficient 8 of 13 shooting. But he didn’t get much support. Rudy Fernandez scored just 10 on a poor shooting night while Pau’s brother Marc was the only other Spaniard in double figures.
Russia got a solid effort out of Denver Nuggets big man Timofay Mozgov who posted 12 and 9 while CSKA man Anton Ponkrashov got off for 14 and 11 dimes.
The loss puts Spain in a bad spot. If things keep up there is a chance the Spaniards could see the U.S. in the knockout stages instead of in the final as predicted. Up next will be a Monday matchup between Spain and Brazil that could be a do or die game for the Spanish ballers.