In one of the most fascinating matchups of the group stage, Spain and Brazil will battle at 3 p.m. ET today. This game has everything you can ask for in an international basketball competition: a slew of NBA players, multiple highly skilled big men, some electric perimeter players, and of course, a potential scandal.
The impending controversy centers around tanking, and whether either international powerhouse would actually do such a thing. The upside to tanking: an easier path through the knockout round. The downside: a possible head-chopping from the powers that be.
It will be mighty tempting for both teams to lose this game, as a win would mean they would face Argentina in the quarterfinals and the United States in the semifinals. A loss would set them up with a difficult—but much less intimidating—schedule, with possible matchups against France in the quarters and Russia in the semis.
However, after the recent tanking fiasco in the badminton competition, now is probably not the best time to intentionally lose at the Olympics. I doubt either team will be obvious in their efforts to tank, but this one could get very interesting down the stretch if neither team has pulled away.
As ESPN’s Marc Stein pointed out, Spain probably has the “advantage” in this scenario. Marc Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro have been battling injuries, and they could justifiably sit out this game with the Spaniards guaranteed to advance. Unfortunately, Spain also boasts the likes of Pau Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Rudy Fernandez, Sergio Rodriguez and our boy Jose Calderon, so they might end up winning anyway.
Of course, Brazil’s roster isn’t very conducive to losing, either. They have a trio of NBA post players (Nene, Anderson Varejao, Tiago Splitter), and a pair of guards (Leandro Barbosa, Alex Garcia) who should be able to exploit Spain’s defensively-challenged backcourt.
Yes, as sad as they may be about it, both teams are actually capable of winning this game on their own. In the end, I think Brazil will win the game within the game, as their NBA players have more experience in the art of tanking. Spain will win by scoreboard standards (by, let’s say, 7 points), and advance to the knockout stage with their pride—but not their gold medal hopes—intact.
Austin Green is the editor of Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.