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Report: Team USA staffers entered men’s basketball knockout stage fearing Spain most

Olympics Day 16 - Basketball

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 12: Pau Gasol #4 of Spain slam dunks during the Men’s Basketball gold medal game between the United States and Spain on Day 16 of the London 2012 Olympics Games at North Greenwich Arena on August 12, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

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Team USA must first beat Argentina in a quarterfinal – 5:45 p.m. Eastern on NBC Sports Network and streaming here – but the Americans have eyed a different opponent:


Marc Stein of ESPN on Spain:

this is still the team that USA Basketball staffers privately fear the most

And that was before Spain crushed France by 25 in their quarterfinal today.

Spain has fared much better than the U.S. against good competition in Rio, beating Lithuania by 50 and Argentina by 19 and lost to Croatia by just two. The Spaniards are loaded with talent, including Pau Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Mirotic, Sergio Lull, Sergio Rodriguez, Rudy Fernandez, Juan Carlos Navarro and Willie Hernangomez. They looked especially good today, moving the ball offensively and defending cohesively. Add Spain’s history of success – winning silver medals behind the U.S. in the previous two Olympics – and the concern is justified.

Team USA just better not overlook Argentina. Argentina is capable of upsetting the Americans if they show up lethargic.

But if the U.S. tops Argentina, a little extra preparation for Spain might pay off.