The 2016 Rio Olympics men’s basketball tournament has been whittled down to four teams, and as the field gets smaller in the medal rounds so have the point spreads for the United States men’s basketball team. Favored by at least 23 points in each of their previous six games in Brazil, Team USA is listed as a 14-point favorite before meeting rival Spain in the semifinals Friday afternoon, according to Sportsbook.ag.
The line was previously listed at 13.5 points, and Thursday’s movement suggests prospective bettors believe head coach Mike Krzyzewki’s squad can exceed oddsmakers projections. Especially after the way the U.S. manhandled Argentina for a 105-78 victory in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.
Against Argentina, forward Kevin Durant’s 27 points, powered by his 7-for-9 rate from three-point land, and Paul George’s 17 points, team-high eight rebounds, and three blocks overwhelmed an Argentine squad that had little offense to equal its stalking perimeter defense.
Coming off the bench for the first time in the tournament, center DeMarcus Cousins also shot 6-for-10 from the field for 15 points but early in the first quarter Team USA looked shaky and much like the team that barely escaped pool play undefeated.
Perhaps a main reason for the tournament-low spread, the U.S. fell behind 19-9 with four minutes left in the opening quarter until timely buckets from Durant, George, and guard Klay Thompson swung the momentum and led to a 16-2 run and four-point lead after the first period. The U.S. would then outscore Argentina 62-40 in the second and third quarters combined, and never looked back.
And Krzyzewski credited the difficult victories over Australia, France, and Serbia (by a combined 16 points) as reason enough for his squad’s resiliency.
“The last three games of pool play were very beneficial to us, because we played three outstanding teams," Krzyzewski said. "They showed some weaknesses that we have, and we tried to get better. The only way to get better is by playing these tough games. I would say we were just better tonight and more who we can be. The effort defensively was outstanding tonight. We really played hard, and that was great to see.”
The U.S. will need that full effort against a Spain squad loaded with NBA talent, but that took some time finding its legs in the tournament. And Spain is also the two-time defending silver medalist, losing to the U.S. by a combined 18 points in the last two gold-medal games in Beijing and London.
The Spanish, led by San Antonio Spurs center Pau Gasol and Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic’s combined 30.7 points per game, posted back-to-back losses to Croatia and host-nation Brazil to start, but closed out pool play with blowout victories over Nigeria, Lithuania, and Argentina.
That momentum led to a complete 92-67 dismantling of France in the quarterfinals, with Mirotic netting 23 points off five threes. Real Madrid’s Willy Hernangomez also poured in 18 points to lead a bench that also includes former NBA players Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Rodriguez.
Betting Odds: USA -13.5
Over/Under: 187 points
Prediction: USA over Spain, 99-88