Spain-Australia Preview

After a slow start, Spain’s frontcourt was too much to handle

for its first opponent of the 2012 Olympics. That’s not a good sign

for undersized Australia, which struggled in its opener.

Spain will face Australia in the second game of Group B play on

Tuesday.

The silver medal winner in Beijing, Spain is looking to return

to the podium in London. However, the club was rusty early against

China before ultimately pulling away for a 97-81 victory

Sunday.

Spain held just a two-point lead at the end of the first

quarter, but broke open the game with a 7-0 run in the second and

were never threatened thereafter.

Pau Gasol had 21 points and 11 rebounds to help Spain amass a

39-25 advantage on the boards while Serge Ibaka had 17 points and

three blocked shots.

Spain is expected to lean heavily on its frontcourt without

injured point guard Ricky Rubio, but Gasol’s younger brother Marc

had a quiet game with five points on 2-of-4 shooting as he deals

with an ailing shoulder.

Captain Juan Carlos Navarro is also dealing with an injuries,

coming off the bench to finish with 14 points despite back and foot

problems. Rust and injuries may have played a part in Spain’s slow

start, but it’s nothing the club is too concerned about.

“We always start a little bit anxious,” Jose Calderon told

FIBA’s official website. “We managed to win a tough game and that

makes me happy because we were practically perfect in the last

quarter.”

While Spain expects to use its size to its advantage at the

London Games, Australia’s inside play is looking to be more

effective.

Australia won’t have center Andrew Bogut available for the

Olympics, and it also had troubles with its guard play in a 75-71

loss to Brazil on Sunday. The team had 19 turnovers, including six

by Joe Ingles, while shooting 4 of 22 from beyond the arc.

Down by two with 29 seconds left, Australia was called for a

kicked ball, resetting the clock for Brazil. Australia, which

trailed by as many as 13 points, was forced to foul and Brazil made

both shots.

“It is a tough loss because you always want to get that first

game. But you take all the positives out of this game and move on

to Spain and we believe we can get them,” Patty Mills, who had 20

points and seven rebounds, said. “If we stick to what we do well –

and that’s the defensive pressure and running out of that – that’s

how we can beat teams.”

David Andersen started at center and scored all 14 of his points

in the second half while adding eight rebounds. However, he didn’t

have much help inside.

Backup Aron Baynes finished with 10 points in 15 minutes, but

had four turnovers and was limited by foul trouble. Aleks Maric,

who suffered a leg injury before the tournament, was also

ineffective because of fouls.

These clubs also faced each other in group play during the 2000

Olympics, with host Australia defeating Spain 91-80.