So much for being the only Olympic men’s basketball superpower – Team USA has been less than the sum of their parts after winning their last two games in Rio de Janeiro by only three points apiece.
Team USA’s margin of victory thus is 23.4 points, well below the respective 38.2 and 32.2 of their 2012 and 2008 counterparts. However, with the quarterfinals set for Wednesday at Carioca Arena, the Americans remain the -2000 favorite to win the gold medal at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
The gold medal futures board includes Spain at +1400, Australia at +2000, Serbia at +2200 and Lithuania at +2500.
The Americans are 23-point favorites for their quarterfinal against Argentina, and the total is 190.5. A team with Kevin Durant, Paul George and Draymond Green should win, but a cover might be daunting for a team that has yet to establish continuity. Argentina, bolstered by crafty NBA veterans such as Carlos Delfino, Manu Ginobili, Andres Nocioni and Luis Scola, has potential to stick around for three or more quarters.
Back-to-back silver medalist Spain is a 5.5-point favorite against France in the matchup that will decide who faces the U.S.-Argentina winner in the semifinals. The total is 154.5 points.
With Pau Gasol and Rudy Fernandez, Spain excels at getting and making open looks on offense. They are suspect defensively, and France with San Antonio Spurs PG Tony Parker – whose minutes have been rationed in the tournament – is capable of dictating the pace. With Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw, France can also play physically.
On the other half of the bracket, Serbia is a 5.5-point favorite against arch rival Croatia, with a total of 157 points. The x-factor might well be Denver Nuggets F Nikola Jokic, who went off for 25 points when Serbia gave Team USA a scare last round. In a matchup of developing bigs, Jokic is just more polished than Croatia’s Dario Saric, who is joining the Philadelphia 76ers after the Olympics.
Patty Mills-fueled Australia is a 3.5-point favorite against Lithuania. The total is 158. Australia has overachieved so far in Rio, whereas Lithuania has underachieved. Mills and Matthew Dellavedova supply the 1-2 punch at point guard that is a necessity in international hoops. Dellavedova will probably be trusted to try and slow up Lithuania PG Mantas Kalnietis.
Each men’s semifinal is on Friday. Team USA has won five of six gold medals since 1992.