The Argentinean’s were hoping to add another medal to their men’s basketball Olympic Collection. After all, the Spaniards had ended up in the podium in the previous two summer Olympic games and now they had a chance to knock off the Russians, a team who had never won a medal in basketball. Let’s not forget that Argentina won gold in Athens 2004, then followed that up with a bronze medal in Beijing 2008. So when the Argentineans managed to close down on an 11-point first half deficit, and took a two-point lead when there were only 1:45 left to play in the fourth quarter, it seemed as if once again they were going to return to Buenos Aires with a medal. But in the final minute of play, everything went terrible wrong for the South Americans and with a solid three pointer from Alexei Shved, they took the lead for good and never looked back as the Russians took a 81-77 win over Argentina to win their first Olympic medal in men’s basketball.
Alexei Shved guided the Russians with 25 points, including 14 in the decisive fourth quarter, Andrei Kirilenko added 20 points, Vitaliy Fridzon 19 for a team that has certainly taken a huge step into becoming a strong name in the international circuit. Just to put how good this win is, and how much it means for this Russian team to return home with a medal, consider for a moment that four years ago, in Beijing, the Russians finished 9th, and now, four years ago and relying on a young and talented squad, they managed to win bronze. So it becomes easy to understand why a player like Andrei Kirilenko would go on to say “Feels like gold for us,” in the postgame press conference. Considering what a huge improvement they’ve made in the last years and how solid they played during the Olympic tournament, one could go on and say that they really deserved the win.
The Argentinean veteran Manu Ginobili scored 21 points for his team while the lesser-known Andres Nocioni chipped in with 16 for Argentina. They certainly didn’t took the loss too gracefully. As the final seconds ticked off Argentina’s players swarmed referees Bill Kennedy, Jose Carrion and Juan Arteaga in protest. The starters and a couple of the bench players came around Kennedy and the other officials, screaming and demanding answers for what they considered had been an uncalled foul in the last 5 seconds of play. Ginobili, Nocioni and Scola all complained to no.
But it was Pablo Prigioni, the player who just signed with the New York Knicks this summer, who got a little too out of control and sent the substitution clock flying to the floor when he violently kicked it away from the referees table. Not certainly his finest hour, but heck, on the one side, even though his sportsmanship might not be at his finest, he’s certainly a passionate player, and sometimes that’s just as important. Overall, it wasn’t a nice thing to see, and the Argentineans recognized that it just wasn’t worth it. Argentina had lost the game a couple of plays before the final buzzer.