In the last game of preliminary rounds and going undefeated through the first four games, Russia has finally fallen down. Although not eliminated yet, but definitely hurt.
Among teams outside of Team USA, Russia was one team no one really could imagine going undefeated on their side of pool play. Spain maybe, but not Russia. Russia defeated Spain in two days ago in a game where we saw Spain in full control of the game in the first quarter and looked poised for a blowout. But Russia was resilient, and battled their way back and found a way to pull of the upset over the #2 overall ranked Spain. Today, however, they were on the other side of an upset.
#9 ranked Australia defeated Russia today 82-80 after a game winning three point shot by San Antonio Spurs point guard Patrick Mills. The game was kept close throughout the day as neither team never really had full control of the game. Australia looked good from the get go leading 29-20 at the end of the first quarter but Russia closed the gap to just 1 at the end of the first half.
After a productive first half for both teams, the second half would be a little bit less productive as both clubs had trouble scoring at some points. Australia still managed to enter the final quarter with a not so comfortable 5 point lead. As the fourth quarter turned around it was very clear that Russia was not going to go down easily. Denver Nuggets big man Timofey Mozgov started the quarter with a two handed dunk and later Andrei Kirilenko would throw one down as well as the Russians were within one point with 8 minutes to play still.
Offense in the final quarter was tough for both teams as neither team was able to go over 16 points in the quarter. As the game reached its critical moments with 1:07 left in the game both teams saw the finish line, but the question was, who can run faster? After a turnover by Australia and a turnover as well by Russia, the Aussies had an opportunity to put the nails on the coffin up 1 with 37 seconds left. Patrick Mills unfortunately missed a three point shot which would’ve given Australia a four point advantage and some desperately needed cushion from Russia. Russia sealed the rebound and with 4 seconds left, Vitaly Fridzon was fouled and was headed to the free throw strike. Down 1, Fridzon calmly knocked down both free throws which eventually gave the Russians the lead for the first time in the 4th quarter.
Australia would then call an immediate timeout to set up the last play of the game. Down 2 points, in the last game of the preliminary rounds, Patrick Mills would avenge his recently missed three point basket. With 2 seconds left, Patrick “Patty” Mills knocked down a big three pointer to give Australia the lead and the win. The Australians rushed to the court in celebration while the Russians felt like they let a team that they should have easily defeated come up with an upset.
Forward Joe Ingles led the way for Australia with his 20 points on 8 for 11 shooting from the field. Hero, Patrick Mills, finished the game with 13 points and 3 assists. Forward David Andersen had 13 points as well and added 5 rebounds to help Australia pick up a big victory. Two-guard Matthew Dellavedova finished with 10 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds.
As for Russia, they also had four players finish in double figures. Soon-to-be Minnesota Timberwolves teammates forward Andrei Kirilenko and guard Alexey Shved both had 13 points and 6 rebounds. Russia, however, today was led by big man Alexander Kaun who finished the day with 18 points and 6 rebounds. Off the bench, center Timofey Mozgov chipped in with 10 points.
Both Russia and Australia have both secured a spot already in the Quarterfinals round in the 2012 London Olympics Men’s Basketball games. Their opponents for the elimination round is still undetermined as Brazil and Spain and the United States and Argentina are still to have their final preliminary games today against each other.