29 July 2012
Spain met their expectations in their opening Olympic Games match. Scariolo’s players earned their first victory (97-81) against an assertive Chinese team that did not give up at any point during the encounter. Although it took its time to come to the fore in the match, the national team tipped the balance in their favor, scoring 34 points in the second quarter of a match in which the offenses clearly imposed themselves upon the defenses. Rudy Fernández scored the most points of the Madrid players on show, scoring seven points, while Reyes (2), Rodríguez (5) and Llull (2) also helped their side to victory.
Even for a team with the experience and skill of Spain, the first match at the Olympic Games is always full of pressure. Scariolo’s team, which included the Real Madrid players Rudy and Llull from the start, took their time to find their rhythm and were surprised by the Chinese pressure during the first minutes. A three-pointer from Calderón and a 2+1 play from Pau Gasol changed the dynamics of the encounter. They were the stars in the first quarter, scoring 18 of the team’s 19 points, which enabled the team to start the second quarter with a two-point advantage.
Whilst the Chinese team made substitutions too early, the Spanish team’s game went from strength to strength. The first significant difference on the scoreboard coincided with the appearance of Felipe Reyes who, in his first action of what are his third Olympic Games, caught a rebound in attack and earned three foul shots. Although China managed to keep scoring with ease, their defense succumbed to the power of Spain. Two consecutive three-pointers from Rudy Fernández, and a spectacular alley-oop from Reyes for Pau Gasol gave Spain a comfortable lead at the break (53-41).
Scoring slowed notably when the match got underway again. Spain attempted to maintain their lead, which at times appeared under threat thanks to the efforts of NBA player Yi Jianlian. The pivot-wing, who finished the clash with 30 points, enabled China to reduce the deficit to just nine points when the last ten minutes began. However, the appearance of Sergio Rodríguez, who scored a three-pointer, provided Spain with the fluidity they needed in order to seal victory in the encounter. Ibaka starred in the last attacks of a team that got their Olympic Games campaign off to a good start. The next match takes place this Tuesday against Australia.