By Ricardo Molinelli.
Russia went back to the Olympic podium to receive a medal - a bronze - in men's basketball after defeating Argentina 81-77 thanks to the excellent play of Andrei Kirilenko and, in particular, Alexey Shved.
Twenty-four years without an Olympic medal in men's basketball is a long time for a team like Russia, but it was able to pull out a victory over Argentina, which fought hard and really buckled down but was unlucky at a number of points and was unable to win a third consecutive medal, after taking the gold at the Athens 2004 Games and a bronze in Beijing in 2008.
Kirilenko, who scored the first 5 points for the Russians and Emanuel Ginobili, with 8 points for Argentina in the first six minutes were the ones, given their experience and leadership, to point the way for their teammates.
Slight advantages for one team or the other popped up or were created in a game that was controlled on defense and intricate on the attack but it was clear that neither team was willing to ease up or give in.
The last 10 minutes of the game was give and take during which the ball-handling got hotter and hotter and each possession was more important than the last.
This was the point at which Shved stepped up to take over the scoring for the Russians and set the pace for the game.
Shved scored decisive 3-pointers that gave his team a little breathing room at 71-66 in minute 36, and then another triple-pointer with just 35 seconds left to almost ice the match at 79-77.
Argentina, on the other hand, complained bitterly about the refereeing in the final moments.
The defunct Soviet Union won the gold in men's basketball in Seoul in 1988 but, until now, had come up empty in Olympic competition. EFE