#Rio2016: Can anybody beat the USA?

Kyrie Irving (USA)
(Image from FIBA)
*This first appeared on FIBA.com.

Two-time defending champions USA are prohibitive favorites to capture gold in the men's Olympic basketball tournament.

They can expect to take every opponent's best shot, though. Which teams, if any, have a chance of beating the team coached by Mike Krzyzewski? International basketball experts Jeff Taylor, David Hein, Dimitris Kontos, Enzo Flojo, Julio Chitunda and Paulo Kennedy give their thoughts.


Jeff: The USA are dominant, but they're not unbeatable. They've had some scares the past several years. At the 2010 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Istanbul, they survived in a 70-68 thriller against Brazil. Lithuania have a team that can give the USA problems, the same team that gave them problems in 2000, 2004 and 2012. Spain, who pushed the USA hard in the last two Olympic Finals, have the talent and experience to beat the USA.



Dimitris: There will be teams which, by taking good care of the ball offensively, will limit somewhat the USA's transition game and by employing zone defenses can manage to keep it tight until halfway through the third quarter. But there will not be a London 2012 version of Spain or a Beijing 2008 of La Roja, and certainly not a Saitama 2006 (FIBA Basketball World Cup) Greece-like team.


Enzo: It should have been Spain, but I'm picking Lithuania. These are the EuroBasket 2015 second-placers, and I feel like they’ve gotten better since then. Jonas Valanciunas should leave a stronger imprint, while so many other players are ready and capable of playing toe-to-toe with the Americans like Jonas Maciulis and Mantas Kalnietis. If the Lithuanians catch Team USA on a bad day, anything can happen.


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Julio: France can give the USA a hard time not only because they have the most NBA players after the Americans, but especially because they are coming off a superb campaign at the Manila OQT. Nando De Colo is playing his best for years, Charles Kahudi remains a terrific defender, and add Tony Parker and rim protector Rudy Gobert and you have a tough team. Parker has won four NBA titles, one EuroBasket, and he seems ready to add an Olympic medal to his trophy cabinet.




Dave: I have to go with the Europeans, Spain and France. Both have enough players with big game and NBA experience that they are not at all intimidated. Both teams also have veterans who have been through the battles and know what it takes - it's just a matter of executing the game plan when it matters. The main thing is athleticism, where the Americans are dominant still.


Paulo: Spain. It's almost impossible to keep the USA to a complete grind, so you've got to have the offensive talent to keep the scoreboard ticking over, and Sergio Scariolo's men have that in spades, as they've shown in the past two Olympic Finals.  They will feel they wasted a golden opportunity to knock off the champs at the World Cup two years ago, and given this USA team doesn’t have quite the same offensive talent as its two Olympic predecessors, the perpetual bridesmaids might fancy their chances in a shootout this time around. Lithuania is the other team that can rack up the points against anyone, as they showed when coming within a whisker of the USA in London. They are missing some key pieces here, but you can never take the Green Machine lightly.




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