Finals in Mind: USA Beats Spain, 82-76


Certainly a semifinal with plenty of Bull, Friday’s matchup between Spain and Team USA gave us the best game of the elimination round. In the end, the United States got the expected win, but it wasn’t for lack of effort from Pau Gasol and the rest of the Spanish team.

Effort seems to be something of a key emphasis in games which involve the USA men’s team. Fortunately, the effort was mostly there on Friday. Not so fortunate were Spain’s shooters in this game. The Unite States gave up 3-point attempts at a high rate, but the Spanish side couldn’t manage to make them pay.

While Spain struggled from beyond the arc, Gasol was thriving inside of it. In a game that featured way too many technical fouls and fouls in general, it was good to see that at least one vocally demonstrative former Chicago player was having a time of it. Pau had 23 points and eight rebounds during 28:40 of playing time in the loss.

Next: Jabari Parker Commits to Chicago

Another Bull, Nikola Mirotic, didn’t have a great day. After a massive scoring outburst against France, putting up 23 points of his own, Mirotic looked similar to the player that Chicago fans might be familiar – an inconsistent player with lots of potential, capable of big things when his outside shot is going in.

DeMarcus Cousins fouled out, having made little mark on the game and fortunately for head coach Mike Krzyzewski, he had DeAndre Jordan ready and willing to absolutely dominate. The third quarter was particularly good to the massive USA center, during which he repeatedly ran pick-and-roll action with guard Kyrie Irving and was almost unstoppable.

Jordan might have score just nine points, but he also had 16 rebounds and four blocked shots. One of the key factors for the United States heading into the Rio Olympics was going to be their inside play. The rest of world is well behind at the guard positions and the small forward position, but the frontcourt is an area where players like Gasol, Kristap Porzingis, Dario Saric, Nikola Jokic and Domantas Sabonis represent a generational transcendence of excellence.

While we’ve covered a couple of Bulls (past and present), there is one Bull that the franchise is building around for the future that we have yet to touch on – Jimmy Butler.

Of all the Bulls in this game, the least exciting stat line and general performance goes to Butler. Jimmy is certainly one of the most talented players in the league and on the Bulls, but he might be finding it difficult to fit his game in with so many other ball-dominant players. It also doesn’t help that he shot 0-for-5 against Spain.

When asked about the game, Butler said, “Our thing this game was to play really great defense, contest all their 3-point shots, because they shoot a lot of them. And then to rundown the loose balls and a lot of rebounds, and I think we did that really well.”

More from Bulls History

It’s understandable that Butler would want to focus on his defense, his offense was poor. As for his point on contesting 3-point shots, it is fair to say that Spain shot themselves out of this game as much as Team USA keep them unsettled. Butler’s assertion about the rebounds can be confirmed. The United States outrebounded Spain, 53-41, which probably would have been a much closer number if Jordan hadn’t played an absolutely monster game.

At this point, it seems safe to say that Butler will see limited court time in the gold medal game on Sunday. After seeing limited time on the court against Spain and his zero shooting, he’ll be down the pecking order in the rotation. Also, in their group stage matchup with Serbia, which will be their opponent in the final, Butler played just under 15 minutes and he was able to provide some offense in that game.

Mirotic and Gasol will play in the bronze medal game against Australia. Gasol, despite the loss to Team USA, became Spain’s all-time leading scorer during his 23-point performance. Only one more game to go for both teams and all three Bulls-connected players will have a shot to head home with medals.