Olympics: Nightmare scenario hits for Spain-Brazil game
A group system to decide pre-set playoff pairings was to blame as it was in women's badminton doubles, where eight players were banished from the Games for trying to lose in order to avoid an early playoff date with a big favourite.
Russia's 77-74 victory over Spain and Brazil's 98-59 victory over China created a situation where the winner between Brazil and Spain takes the second seed in Group B and the loser gets the third seed.
Unless Argentina pulls a shock Group A upset of the US NBA stars in Monday's final preliminary round game, the loser of the Spain-Brazil game will be in the opposite half of the draw from the Americans, unlike the Spain-Brazil winner.
That would mean the winner could face the US NBA Dream Team in a semi-final rather than only in a potential gold-medal matchup. The Spain-Brazil loser can likely take the NBA Dream Team roadblock out of its path to the final.
"This is a long tournament," Spain's Jose Calderon said. "The important games are the (playoff games). You can't lose there. We have to keep going."
The situation casts a shadow over a game that is likely to naturally feature struggles from both teams, especially a Spanish side that edged minnows Britain by a single point before squandering an 20-2 start in losing to Russia.
"We have a lot of work to do," Spanish NBA star Pau Gasol said. "We are right in the middle of a championship and we should be at a better place right now so it's very inconsistent at this point.
"We're playing at a very high level because of the talent in our players but we're capable of playing very average for the potential of the team we have."
It doesn't help that NBA San Antonio Spurs star Manu Ginobili of Argentina was already talking about conserving energy if the South American side falls behind the Americans deeply and quickly for a possible semi-final rematch.
"With the United States, it depends on how the game starts," Ginobili said. "If they are ahead by 15 or 20 points in the first half, you put the brakes on. It will depend on how the match goes."
But Ginobili also said being seeded against the Americans in the semi-final or on the opposite side of the bracket did not change much for Argentina, which captured 2004 Olympic gold while the US squad settled for bronze.