Kirilenko, Shved lead Russia to basketball bronze

8/12/2012 9:17:00 AM

Alexey Shved scored 25 points and recorded seven assists as Russia beat Argentina 81-77 and claimed the bronze medal in men's basketball at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Shved took over in crunchtime as Russia picked up their first Olympic medal in men's basketball.

"This is one of the best moments of my life. When you come to the Olympic Games and win a medal, not every athlete can do this," Shved said. "Right now, I've done this, and I don't understand it. I need some time, maybe one hour or two hours (for it to sink in)."

In the first half, the Russians shot over 50 per cent and appeared to be in control when Kirilenko made a pair of layups four minutes before the break to push Russia's lead to 33-27.  But just as they did throughout the game, Argentina closed on a run and Russia's lead was just two at halftime.

Despite an having an aging squad, Argentine coach Julio Lamas played 35-year-old point guard Pablo Prigioni the entire first half which would prove to be his side's undoing.

Over most of the third quarter, the song remained the same as Russia exploited their size advantage to once again surge in front 61-50 with just 1:04 to play. Argentina continued to fire away from long range and had runs of their own. The South American side closed the quarter with a 7-0 run to cut the gap to four.

Argentina's strong play continued in the fourth quarter as they tied the score at 62 with seven minutes to play.

It was a dogfight going forward as Russia and Argentina would stay close the rest of the way with Shved taking over for Russia, while Manu Ginobili would run things for Argentina.

With 43 seconds to play, Ginobili drove right, ducked under the basket, finishing with a lefthanded circus shot to put Argentina in front.

It appeared as though the Argentines had the momentum to finish off Russia, but Shved was hot. He continuously exploited Prigioni's aging, tired legs in the fourth quarter. With 37 seconds to play he countered Ginobili's magical drive with a long-range bomb that finished off Argentina.

"It was a difficult shot because if I miss we are dead," Shved said.

A missed three-pointer from Argentina's Andres Nocioni was followed with a big steal by Shved off Delfino as the Russian pitched the ball to Vitaly Fridzon who closed the scoring with an open lay-up.

"They were better than us. We had the chance, but they played better in the last minutes," said Argentina forward Luis Scola who finished with 11 points and six rebounds. "We can get angry about the last play because it was a foul, but we didn't lose the game in that ball. We lost it before."

Ginobili finished with 21 points in a losing effort while Nocioni totaled 16.

Andrei Kirilenko, Shved's teammate with the Minnesota Timberwolves, helped thee Russian cause with 20 points and eight rebounds despite playing with a calf injury.