I guess we can just rename these posts “Calderon At the Olympics,” huh?
An inconsistent Calderon and inconsistent Spanish team found a way to rally past Russia in the first semifinal to set up a Gold medal rematch on Sunday.
So how did Calderon fare on Friday?
Spain 67, Russia 59
Jose Calderon: 33 Min, 14 Pts, 4/9 FG, 4/8 3PT, 2/2 FT, 3 Ast, 2 Reb, 3 TO
When these two teams met in the pool play round robin, Spain jumped out to a huge first quarter lead before collapsing and allowing Russia to claw back. In this tilt, Russia got off to a quick start, and it was Spain who had to rally later in the game.
The main reason Spain found themselves down in the first half was the ineffective play of their guards, who were basically shooting the team out of the game, Jose Calderon among them. Calderon finished the first half shooting 0/3 with a turnover – two measly free throws the only evidence he was even on the floor in the game’s first 20 minutes.
It took Calderon 22 minutes to make a field goal, but when he did, you could see him slowly picking up steam. His big three-pointer in the dying seconds of the third quarter sent the game into the fourth all tied up, and while there was still 10 minutes left to play, the shot seemed to stop the Russians dead in their tracks.
Calderon shot the ball well in the fourth quarter (3/4) and really pushed the Spanish attack and tempo, something he failed to do in the previous six-and-a-half games. Though he turned the ball over a couple of times later in the game, the result had pretty much already been decided. Pau Gasol finished with the most impressive numbers for Spain and was solid in his own right, but make no mistake, Spain doesn’t win this game without Jose Calderon, who unquestionably turned the contest’s momentum.
Another thing I noticed in this game was that Calderon played better, or at least played more freely, when Pau was on the bench. You may have noticed that when both Gasol brothers are on the floor, Calderon’s job is literally to dribble on the perimeter for a while before dumping the ball inside. If he’s lucky, maybe he’ll get to execute the odd swing-pass. Other than that, he’s expected to simply knock down open shots. The problem earlier in this tournament and earlier in this game was that Calderon wasn’t knocking down enough shots to make his dribbling and swing-passing worthwhile, especially when he isn’t very effective on the defensive end.
But with Pau on the bench for stretches of the second half, Calderon was able to take the reins of the Spanish offence a little more, and he looked a lot more comfortable on the floor.
Of course, Spain is going to need Pau on the floor for the majority of Sunday’s game, and they’ll need Calderon and every other member of their team to step up too if they have any hope in hell of challenging the Americans.
Seven games in, Spain still hasn’t looked sharp or consistent for more than one or two quarters at a time, and you can say the same about Calderon at the point. And yet here they are in the gold medal game. I’m really interested to see if Calderon and Spain have simply saved their best for last and are ready to peak at just the right time.
The final goes Sunday at 10 a.m. ET.
By the way, if Jonas Valanciunas’ foul rate in London has you concerned about how he’ll stay on the floor in his rookie season, fear no more, as the young big man has learned an important lesson at these Games…how not to foul out.