It was likely the closing chapter of the “Golden Generation” for Argentina’s National basketball program, but on Sunday in London, the Argentines didn’t get their storybook ending.
With 43 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Argentina was trailing Russia 76-75. San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili, who has been the leader over the years for the Argentine National team, drove to the basket and converted a layup under the basket in true “Manu” form. Argentina now led 77-76.
With 37 seconds and the game looking like Argentina was about to have their fairy tale ending, Russian guard Aleksey Shved nailed a late 3-pointer with Pablo Prigioni defending him, to give Russia a 79-77 lead. Madness would ensue for Argentina on the other end as they scrambled to make a play, but with time drawing closer and frantic panic taking place on the court, the buzzer sounded with a wide-open layup by Vitaly Fridzon to give Russia the Bronze Medal with an 81-77 victory.
Ginobili led Argentina with 21 points, but it was the soon to be Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Shved who played Ginobili’s role for Russia, the closer, as Shved scored 13 of his 25 points in the final quarter. Here’s the rundown.
First quarter: Argentina (ARG) 20, Russia (RUS) 19
Player of the quarter (ARG): Ginobili, Andres Nocioni - Being the scoring leader for Argentina, Ginobili began the first quarter with eight points, of which he scored by knocking down two 3-pointers. Nocioni (16 points) helped Ginobili with the scoring load in the first as he knocked down a 3-pontier, and also finished a give-and-go from Ginobili, as he finished the quarter with seven points. Both Ginobili and Nocioni combined for 15 of Argentina’s 20 points in the first quarter.
Player of the quarter (RUS): Fridzon, Andrei Kirilenko – Fridzon (19 points) scored seven points in the first quarter for Russia by hitting from the outside and at the free throw line, while Kirilenko (20 points) scored his first five points in the first as well.
Second quarter: ARG 38, RUS 40
Player of the quarter (ARG): Carlos Delfino, Leo Gutierrez, Ginobili – With Ginobili going to the bench, Delfino (15 points) scored five of his eight second quarter points early mainly with back-to-back 3-pointers. Once Ginobili was on the bench, Russia went on a 12-0 run. Ginobili was put back into the game and fed Leo (12 points) for back-to-back 3-pointers to spark a 9-0 run which Ginobili himself got involved in with an inbounds steal and 3-pointer. Ginobili had 11 points going into halftime.
Player of the quarter (RUS): Kirilenko, Shved – Kirilenko helped Russia with a 12-0 run to reclaim the lead and go ahead by as many as six points. Kirilenko scored six points in the second quarter, while Shved had nine points by halftime, Shved’s key play in the first half was a late 3-pointer near the buzzer before halftime.
Third quarter: ARG 57, RUS 61
Player of the quarter (ARG): Nocioni, Luis Scola, Ginobili - Nocioni had a big part in the third quarter as he hit his outside shots, but also scored points by attacking the basket. Nocioni had 12 points after three quarters. After only putting up four shot attempts in the entire first half, Scola (11 points) managed to scored five points in the third quarter. Ginobili only scored three points in the third, but it was his passing that made a huge difference in the quarter.
Player of the quarter (RUS): Kirilenko, Fridzon – Kirilenko and Fridzon had a big third quarter as Kirilenko kept finding ways to exploit mismatches in the post, and Fridzon continued to earn trips to the free throw line. Kirilenko had 17 points after three quarters, while Fridzon had 15. At one point, Russia held an 11-pointer lead in the third quarter.
Fourth quarter: ARG 77, RUS 81
Player of the quarter (ARG): Nocioni, Ginobili – El Chapu and Ginobili did what they could to keep Argentina in the game, as Ginobili scored seven points in the fourth quarter. But Nocioni could have made a huge difference had he made an open 3-pointer in the final minute after Shved had connected on his 3-pointer seconds before.
Player of the quarter (RUS): Shved – As noted above, Shved was just too much for Argentina to handle. In one sequence, he went through a period of scoring seven straight points from Russia which were a combination of his outside quick release jump shot, and a give-and-go to the rim that resulted in him dunking the ball.
In what could very well be his final game with Argentina, Ginobili finished with 21 points on 10-of-22 shooting, three rebounds, three assists, three turnovers, and two steals.
Argentina will go on to finish fourth in the 2012 Olympic games. After sending six players to the Olympics, no Spurs players finished with a medal, yet their eldest Olympian made it the furthest.
For now, Ginobili will have a month and a half to rest and spend time with his family before training camp begins for a new NBA season in the fall.