Phew, what a way to start the day in the United States. Two great final men’s basketball Olympic games. While most Americans were sleeping and preparing themselves to watch Team USA try to win their second consecutive Olympic gold medal, the bronze medal game was tipping off at 5:00 AM. And boy oh boy, was this game ever intense and very exciting. Timberwolves fans must feel very proud. You’ll see why later.
After both feeling unhappy of not being able to competing for the gold medal, Russia and Argentina both had their hopes up once again as they had an opportunity to leave London with an Olympic medal. To leave London with a bronze medal is better than leaving London without a medal at all especially for two very hard working clubs. With that in mind, both teams came out of the game with “some nasty”. Remember Popovich?
Anyways, to start off the first quarter the two newest members of the Minnesota Timberwolves family, forward Andrei Kirilenko and guard Alexey Shved scored the first 8 points for Russia, but then again, the 4 main scorers for Argentina in Carlos Delfino, Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, and Andres Nocioni were always on the counter attack. After having a poor semi-final game against Spain, Vitaly Fridzon came out of this game more aggressive, but Russia ended up being down 1 point heading into the second quarter.
In the second quarter, Russia would come out with a dunk by big man Sasha Kaun but in this game, as you would begin to notice throughout the contest, the other team would make spurts. To start the second, it was Argentina’s time to do the scoring as they went on a 7-0 run after the dunk by Kaun. However, as the tides started to shift into Argentina’s favor, Russia stormed back to take the lead with a 12-0 run. But, just as if it’s scripted like a William Shakespeare play, the Argentines would go on a bombs-away run as they knocked down three 3 pointers in a row in just about one minute of play. As the first half was coming to close both teams kept jarring back at one another and with Argentina holding desperately to a one point lead at the final seconds of the first half, Russia’s Alexey Shved knocked down a trey to give Russia the two point lead heading into the locker room.
With the second half clock ticking, Russia began to look like they had this game in full control as they built a double digit lead on Argentina, 61-50, as Kirilenko and Fridzon began to take over the game with their offense. With about a minute left to play in the third, much like the second quarter, a spurt would allow Argentina to get back into the game. After only scoring 2 points in the last 4 minutes or so, Argentina closed out the third quarter strong with a 7-0 run to close the gap to within 4 points, making this game much more interesting heading into the final quarter of play.
Manu Ginobili and Andrei Kirilenko, the two captains of their team for the past Olympic games, knew that this would be the last time they would ever play in the Olympic games. Rio was no longer a probability, but a definite no no. 2016 wasn’t going to happen, there wasn’t going to be any more chances to win an Olympic medal once again. This was the last quarter they would ever play on an Olympic level.
To start off the fourth quarter, Ginobili and Kirilenko weren’t the stars, however, it was their teammates that did most of the work to kick start their final quarter of Olympic basketball. Argentina would continue to close the gap and would eventually take the lead after a Ginobili layup with 7:08 in the game. From there, Shvedsanity began. You heard that right, I’m getting out there now, that’s the newest word on the block basketball fans. Timberwolves fans, if you watched this game, you would be pumping your chest with much excitement for the upcoming NBA season. With the game tied at 64 with about half a quarter to go, Shved knocked down a three pointer to break the knot. Unfortunately, for Argentina of course, Shved wasn’t finished, not at all. The young Russian point guard would score 13 points in the quarter alone, but scoring wasn’t the biggest thing he did, but more on that in awhile.
After knocking down the trey that gave Russia a three point advantage, Shved would hit a midrange jump shot and a dunk which eventually forced Argentina to call timeout. Argentina would answer back as usual, as it has become a norm in this bronze medal game, with two triples by Ginobili and Nocioni. Both teams would then begin to trade baskets at the strike and Russia, after two made free throws by Fridzon had a 76-75 lead with under a minute left. Argentina, however, quickly threw a counter attack back at them with a Ginobili layup which gave Argentina a one point lead with 47 seconds left in the game.
It looked as if Argentina was ready to send the Russians packing without a medal on their necks, but Shved struck again by hitting a three pointer after a Russia called a timeout. Russia was up 2 now with 39 seconds to go. Nocioni would try to answer Shved with a three pointer of his own but missed and Russia was given an opportunity to seal the deal. The ball never got into the hands of Shved which in the end allowed Ginobili to easily snag the ball out of Fridzon’s hands.
With 8 seconds left, however, Shvedsanity happened. The young point guard would make the biggest steal of his life and would quickly give up the ball to an open Fridzon for a layup which simply sealed the deal and gave the Russian team their first Olympic medal in history. After only making 2 appearances in the Olympic basketball games previously, Russia finally got a men’s basketball medal around their neck.
Timberwolves fans, get excited, Shved is for real. The point guard would finish with 25 points including 6 three pointers, 7 assists, and five rebounds to lead the Russian national basketball team to a big victory. Fellow Timberwolves teammate, Kirilenko would finish with 20 points and 8 rebounds. Off the bench for Russia, Vitaly Fridzon would bounce back strongly with 19 points despite having 5 turnovers especially the big one down the stretch.
For Argentina, they had the same four players in their starting lineup score in double figures once again. In his last game of Olympic play, Manu Ginobili, the only player in basketball history to win an NBA championship, Eurobasket Championship, and an Olympic gold medal, led the way with 21 points. Luis Scola finished with 11 points, Andres Nocioni had 16 points, and Carlos Delfino had 15 points.