Olympic Men’s Basketball Odds, Picks, Preview: Best Bets for Italy vs. Nigeria, Team USA vs. Czech Republic & More (July 30-31)
Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Team USA star Damian Lillard.
It’s the final countdown in groups A and B for Olympic men’s basketball.
France can clinch the top spot in Group A with a win over Iran, while the United States faces Czech Republic in a crucial matchup in the other game. Down in Group B, Italy and Nigeria face off in a must-win game for both nations. Meanwhile, Germany looks to pull off an upset against Australia, which has won its first two group games.
Our team of basketball analysts have identified three bets for this round of games, starting Friday night and going into Team USA’s game Saturday morning, that bettors can find value in. Let’s take a look.
NBA Odds & Picks
Iran vs. France
Joe Dellera: France is incentivized to make quick work of Iran so it can secure its seat atop Group B heading into the knockout round. France, which defeated the United States and Czech Republic, controls its own destiny against one of the worst teams in the Olympics.
France is one of the best teams at the Summer Games and matches up well with Iran’s best player — center Hamed Haddadi — with an all-world defender in Rudy Gobert. After Haddadi, Iran has no other NBA talent on its roster, which will be problematic against a French team that’s rolling out multiple NBA starters in Gobert, Evan Fournier and Nicolas Batum. All should have strong impacts until this game is out of reach.
Iran has started off slow in both of its games so far, trailing Czech Republic by 16 at the half and the U.S. by 30. France has the NBA talent to put the pedal to the metal and run this score up early, then hopefully rest some of its starters heading into the knockout stage.
Italy vs. Nigeria
Brandon Anderson: Italy and Nigeria are playing in what is effectively an elimination game to round up Group B play. So, what have we learned about these teams so far?
Italy is 1-1 after playing in two close games. The Italians struggled against Germany for much of the opener, but closed the game on a big run to en route to a 92-82 victory. The Italians were big underdogs in their second game, but hung with medal favorite Australia all the way in a 86-83 defeat.
Both games were fast and high-scoring, in large part because Italy plays precious little defense. The Italians are led by Danilo Gallinari and Nicolo Melli, two big men not exactly known for their defense in the NBA. Italy’s modus operandi is to use its veteran savvy and out-shoot the opponent.
Nigeria is off to a disappointing 0-2 start. The Nigerians are playing for their lives, and a win might end up eliminating both teams. Nigeria got that huge exhibition win over Team USA, but has struggled to find its footing since. It was blown out in the Olympic opener against Australia, losing 84-65, and fought all the way against Germany but lost again in a 99-92 setback.
Nigeria has eight NBA players on its roster. This is a supremely athletic team that loves to get out and run, but the team has run hot and cold and the offense can go missing. That’s what happened against the Aussies, when the Nigerians shot just 39% from the field and under 30% on 3-pointers.
Italy isn’t a particularly athletic team and doesn’t even attempt to play much defense, so Nigeria should be able to get out and run and use its athleticism to its advantage. That’s just fine with Italy, who will surely think they can just out-shoot the Nigerians.
These teams have gone over the 173.5 total in three of their four games combined so far, and the one under involved outlier bad shooting from Nigeria.
Team USA vs. Czech Republic
Raheem Palmer: Team USA has had some speed bumps during these Olympics. Upset losses against Nigeria and Australia in the exhibition games, as well as its opening group-play defeat to France. The Americans’ struggles can’t be understated, but at the same time it’s clear they’re superior to most of the teams within the tournament.
Even in its setbacks, Team USA held leads and had control of those games before ultimately failing to execute down the stretch. I’m not sure with the talent disparity on these two teams the game will even come down to crunch time where Team USA’s lack of cohesiveness and chemistry has hurt them against teams that have experience playing together.