The United States men’s basketball team can lock up a third straight berth in the Olympic gold medal game with a victory Friday when it takes on Spain as a 12 1/2-point favorite at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
Fans of the defending Olympic and FIBA World Cup champions breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday when the Americans advanced to this year’s semifinalsÂ with a decisive 105-78 win over Argentina, lifting them to a perfect 6-0 at the 2016 Olympics ahead of Friday afternoon’s matchup with Spain at Carioca Arena 1 in Rio de Janeiro.
While the United States now is undefeated in 23 straight Olympic contests dating back to itsÂ Â win in the bronze medal game at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, it has looked less than dominant at times at this year’s Olympics.
The Americans claimed victory by a combined margin of 101 points in their first two group stage outings, but failed to dominate in their two subsequent outings, struggling to claim three-point wins over Serbia and France while pegged as heavy double-digit chalk.
However, the star-laden USA squad lived up to expectations against Argentina, amassing a 26-point lead by the end of the third quarter en route to an easy win.
Spain also impressed in the quarterfinals, handing France a convincing 92-67 defeat as a 5 1/2-point favorite, and now has won its past three games by an average of 31.3 points. Spain, though, faces a monumental task to get past the Americans, whom it is winless against in 11 Olympic clashes, including losses in the gold medal games in 1984, 2008 and 2012.
Spain kept it close four years ago, dropping a 107-100 decision to the Americans at the London Olympics, and has stayed within 11 points of the United States in three of their past four Olympic matchups.
Friday’s other semifinal has the surprising Australians taking on Serbia as 3 1/2-point chalk.
Australia opened the Olympics as a distant +15000 wager on the odds to win the gold medal at the sportsbooks, but has emerged as the darling of this year’s Games.
The Boomers finished second in Group A with a 4-1 record before crushing Lithuania in the quarterfinals by a 90-64 score, lifting them to +1300 on the odds to win the tournament.
Serbia advanced to the semifinals after hanging on for an 86-83 win over Croatia on Wednesday. The Eagles stumbled in the group stage, which featured a fourth-quarter collapse in a 95-80 loss to Australia, and currently are listed atÂ +1800 to win gold.
Thumbnail photo viaÂ Jeff Swinger/USA TODAY Sports Images