Sorry Minnesota Timberwolves fans, I guess we won’t be seeing Kevin Love of Team USA take on future Timberwolves players Alexey Shved and Andrei Kirilenko of Russia in the gold medal game at the 2012 London Olympics. Anyways, we’ll get to see them together come November 2 at Target Center when the T-Wolves take on the Sacramento Kings.
Congratulations to Spain for defeating Russia in the semi-finals as they will now make their second consecutive appearance in the gold medal round. “Congratulations? For what?” is what most of the Spanish players would say to me right now. And yes, I do understand why they would react to me that way. The last time Spain was in the gold medal round, they had given everything they could but they still fell to the United States 118-107 in one of the best Olympic games I have ever seen. Spain doesn’t need any congratulations mainly because they have not gotten what they have wanted. Yes, they’re happy that they’re in the gold medal game, but certainly they are not satisfied just to be there and assure themselves of getting the silver medal.
In a rematch of two teams who have met already in the 2012 London Olympics during pool play, Spain this time came up with the victory. A much bigger victory of course because Russia is no longer in the running for the gold medal but will have to battle it out with the loser of USA vs Argentina for the bronze. The first quarter of this game was pretty much the same way Spain played during their quartefinal game. No offense. Luckily for them, Russia had no offense at all. At the end of the first quarter, the score was Russia 12 Spain 9. Wow, do either team know what is at stake here. Well, at least we can safely say that both teams are playing solid defense, but it certainly wasn’t a good sign to think that either team could possibly take on the high powered United States in the final round.
The second quarter was a bit of an improvement for Russia, not for Spain as Russia increased their lead to double figures at the end of the first half and looked poised to defeat Spain once again. However, much like Spain’s fourth quarter against France, and no there wasn’t any groin punching, Spain’s defense took hold of Russia and allowed them to produce offensively. After scoring only 20 points in the first half, Spain would score 26 points in the third quarter alone to tie the game up at the end of the third. Pau Gasol and Jose Calderon would both hit two three pointers to close out the third quarter for Spain and would make a statement that they were ready to battle. The fans at the O2 Arena in London were getting ready for a real basketball game. With the game tied up heading into the final quarter and with a gold medal round ticket at stake, this was going to be a tough final quarter for both teams.
As the fourth quarter began, Russian guard/forward Anton Ponkrashov eased the minds and hearts of Russian fans as he quickly converted on a three point play with 9:11 to play. Unfortunately however, that was the last time Russia would score until the 5:28 mark of the quarter. Spain would go on 9-0 run highlighted by another Calderon three pointer which gave Spain their first lead since they led 4-2 in the first quarter. Spain was then up 6 points after a Marc Gasol jump shot and would quickly increase the lead to double figures Felipe Reyes would knock down a jump shot to give Spain a 60-50 lead over Russia.
Russian forward Andrei Kirilenko continued to just make 1 of 2 free throws every time he was sent to the strike which allowed Spain to continue pouring on the points. After both teams would swap points and Spain’s lead down to 8, the older Gasol would put the nails on the coffin with a dunk shot to put the lead back up to 10. End result? Spain wins 67-59.
Spain would go on to score 21 points in the final quarter while holding Russia to just 13 points. Overall in the second half, Russia was held to just 28 points as Spain poured in for 47 points. Defense once again came up big for Spain and they are now on their way to another gold medal game against either the United States or Argentina. Los Angeles Lakers big man Pau Gasol led the way for Spain with a double double with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Point guard Jose Calderon was hot from distance scoring 12 points on 4 three pointers. Guard Rudy Fernandez and Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol both had 11 points. Off the bench Sergio Llull provided some energy with 7 points and 4 rebounds. Spain this time would win the rebounding battle by 34-30.
For Russia, center Alexander Kaun would lead the way with 14 points and 5 rebounds on 7 for 10 shooting from the field. Kirilenko and Ponkrashov would both finish with 10 points with Kirilenko grabbing 8 rebounds as well. Alexey Shved would have a quiet day in scoring (1 for 6 from the field) with 2 points but would still manage to dish out 7 assists. Off the bench Vitaly Fridzon, who was the star in Russia’s victory over Spain during pool play, just had 8 points.
With Russia eliminated from gold medal contention, Russia will be awaiting for the loser of the USA-Argentina game later today. As for Spain they will be headed to the gold medal round to take on the winner of the USA-Argentina game.
The bronze medal game will tip-off at 5:00 AM CT and the gold medal game will tip-off at 9:00 AM CT on NBC.