I think that Team Russia deserved a lot more credit than they recieved while over in London playing in the 2012 Olympic basketball games. The Russians only lost to Australia 80-82 in the preliminary round, going 4-1 and outplaying teams such as Brazil and Spain. Russian guard Vitaliy Fridzon hit an off-balanced three-pointer in the corner to upend medal favorites Brazil in the preliminary round. Vitaliy scored 19 points off the bench, shooting 5-9 from the field and 8-8 from the charity stripe.
Russia beat Argentina, a team that may have saw one of its last chances of medaling in the Olympics for awhile, 81-77 on Sunday in the Bronze Medal game. The aging of Manu Ginobili, who looked a lot younger in London these past couple weeks, will most likely have him sitting out the 2016 games in Brazil. Argentina is just a team that isn’t getting younger, and four years of aging between the next Olympics really wears down the body.
Ginobili tallied a team-high 21 points while shooting 50 percent from the field. He has again been the leader of this Argentinian team, a team that upended the Americans in the 2004 Athens games. Argentina did go out with a bang, however, causing a rucus at the end of the game. Players from Argentina, who overcame a double-digit second-half deficit but still came up short, surrounded the Olympic referrees who made a questionable call concerning a last-second scramble.
Argentines kicked clocks, water bottles were thrown, it was just not a pretty sight to end a game on. That didn’t stop NBA and Russia players Alexey Shved and Andrei Kirilenko from celebrating what they called a gold medal in their book. This was Russia’s first Olympic medal in basketball ever, so players were thrilled to bring so much pride to their country.
Kirilenko scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while shooting at a 66.7 percent clip. One of the keys to success in this game was the accuracy of Kirilenko. He shot great all Olympic long up until Friday’s matchup against Spain. Russia as a team shot poorly due to the stifling Spain defense, but Kirilenko’s lame shooting was a big reason why they didn’t play the Americans on Sunday.
Shved also shot the ball great as well, making 50 percent of his attempts. He also scored 25 points, dished out seven assists and grabbed five boards in the hard-fought victory. After Argentina took a one-point lead on a Ginobili layup, Shved came right back with a three-pointer to put Russia back on top for the rest of the game. The Minnesota guard scored 13 of his 25 points in the final seven minutes. He also shot 6-11 from beyond the three-point arc.
I’m not trying to say that Russia’s win was greater than Team USA’s. Partly because that’s just not true. Team USA steamrolled opponents, hung on during tight stretches and claimed a gold medal for the second straight Olympics. The U.S. should be favorites to win every four years beacuse of the talent that resides in America, but capping off an incredible Olympics on the American side by winning a hard-fought gold medal match against Spain was just what Team USA needed to cap off their tremendous run.
Russia shouldn’t be too worried about the U.S. celebrating their gold. Russian basketball is on the rise, while other interantional teams are aging and will most likely see roster makeovers come the 2016 games. Russia will compete for a medal once again. We’ll see whether they make it to the consolation game or take the next step to the gold medal match.