Basketball has never been more in the spotlight than this year. The Milwaukee Bucks just won their first championship since 1971. Shaq bequeathed his nickname “Superman” unto Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo (AKA The Greek Freak) due to his dominance in the paint throughout the playoffs. The long-awaited sequel to Space Jam was released this month, 25 years after the original release in 1996. The sequel Space Jam: A New Legacy starring LeBron James has created a big stir on social media. Now combine all of that with the Olympics, and you have created one of the most exciting times for basketball.
There is no doubt that international basketball during the Olympics is completely different from the NBA. The rules and how well they are enforced differ in many aspects. NBA officiating has long been criticized. Is there even such a thing as traveling anymore? FIBA, the governing body of Olympic basketball, is known for officiating even more inconsistent than the NBA. European players are notorious for flopping, so the officials allow more contact than their American counterparts. With the additional contact allowed, players now foul out with five fouls instead of the six granted in the NBA. The court is smaller during the Olympics, so the three-point line isn’t as far out. 20’6” instead of the NBA 23’9”. Quarters are ten minutes instead of twelve. If you are used to betting on the NBA, these are some things to consider going into the Olympics.
(Odds courtesy DraftKings Sportsbook)
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Australia vs. Germany [M]
Australia, ranked #3 through FIBA, doesn’t have the star power that the USA has, but neither does #17 Germany. Australia does have some great international players that you might recognize=. Former NBA champions Patty Mills, Aron Baynes, and Matthew Dellavedova all start alongside Utah Jazz Forward Joe Ingles. Germany has Moe Wagner, the center for the Orlando Magic, on the bench. Dennis Schroeder, normally the star for Germany, could not attend the Olympics this year, which means some players will have to step up to try and upset the Australians.
Germany has been able to score so far, averaging 90.5 points during the group stage and starting 1-1, beating #22 Nigeria 99-92 and losing to #10 Italy 82-92. Through their last 5 games, Germany has gone 4-1 with the sole loss to Italy. During those 5 games, they have a quality win versus #9 Russia 69-67. Even with some quality games, they are still looking for their star, with their sole 20-point game coming from Maodo Lo during the game against Italy. The issue with this game is going to be defense. Germany is giving up the most points in Group B — 92 points per game. They will have to make a huge adjustment to stop Australia, who look like they may be the best team through the group stage.
Australia doesn’t have the offense that Germany has, only averaging 85 points per game during their 2-0 start, but their defense has been amazing, only giving up 75 points a contest. That is 17 points less per game than the Germans. Their wins against Nigeria (84-67) and Italy (86-83) show how much harder it is to score against Australia than Germany. Their last five games have made Australia look dominant, going 5-0 with two wins vs. #1 USA and a win vs. #4 Argentina. With Australia’s defense and their last 5 wins, they are in an amazing position to cover the 8.5-point spread against Germany.
Pick: Australia Cover -8.5 (-110)
USA vs. Czech Republic [M]
The #1 United States have not looked like their dominant selves so far this Olympics. Dropping their first game to France 76-83 after losing two games to Australia and a game to Nigeria during exhibition play, the gold medal favorites have a lot to prove if they want to be on the podium this year. 1-1 in the group stage, the Americans risk the knockout round or potential elimination if they lose vs. #12 Czech Republic. The Czech Republic is in the same boat. They need a win to guarantee avoiding elimination or the knockout round. Both teams will be going all out in this game.
The Czech Republic started the group stage off on a good win vs. Iran 84-78. They followed it with a tough loss to France (77-97). With France looking like the best team in Group A and Iran being the worst, it is hard to find out where the Czech Republic stands going into the last game of group play. Averaging 80.5 points while giving up 87.5, the Czech Republic certainly lacks the star power of the USA. The Czech Republic has also struggled on the free-throw line, only shooting 55% through both games. Inconsistency has been a big factor for the team shooting 20% from the three-point line during the Iran game and shooting 47% against France. Rebounding will also be a big factor for the Czech Republic. While they have two 7’0” starters, they have really struggled on the boards.
The United States hasn’t looked great. Struggling during their exhibition games and losing the first game in the group stage, there have been many worries with the gold medal favorites. Their win vs. Iran 120-66 boosted many stats for the United States, who average 103 points per game while only giving up a remarkable 71 points. Will the team we saw crush Iran continue to be the same team we see throughout the rest of the Olympics? I think it will be. The majority of the players are coming off the playoffs and just started to play together recently, but Kevin Durant is still debatably the best player in the world. Damian Lillard will be the best guard we see play in the Olympics. Let’s not forget the amazing perimeter defense of Jrue Holiday, who would love to add a gold medal to sit next to his NBA Championship. The Czech Republic will struggle to slow down the Americans.
Pick: United States Cover -22.5 (-110)
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