Second in a series following "Previewing Team USA vs. Spain"
There's been several articles written about Team USA's matchup with Spain in the late game tomorrow. Therefore, I thought it's time someone looked at the early game (and it is a very early game; tip is 3 AM Pacific), the bronze medal match between Argentina and Russia.
Both teams come into the bronze medal game after having lost in pool play to teams that went out in the first round (France and Australia, respectively). Russia split its series with Spain, with both games being close; Argentina lost both games against the United States by considerable margins.
In an interesting statistic, the two teams have almost the exact same field goal percentage (47.9 percent). However, Argentina has a slightly faster pace than Russia, with 15 more made baskets.
They've also made 20 more three-pointers and 21 more free throws than Russia, meaning they've outscored Russia 613-542 over the course of the seven games.
The teams also are vastly different in age and experience. Russia has a single player over the age of 30 (Andrei Kirilenko is 31); Argentina has eight players over 30, including two who are 35.
Russia is a better rebounding team than Argentina, and also has twice as many blocks. Both of these stats are dominated by cornerman Andrei Kirilenko, the former Utah Jazz player who took a year's layoff from the NBA to be the MVP, Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year of the Russian League.
Kirilenko is averaging 7.4 boards and 1.7 blocks a game and leads the team in points (17.1) and steals.
Who wins the bronze?
Russia also has a better post presence than Argentina, in the form of Denver Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov. Mozgov is second on the team in scoring while shooting 64.7 percent from the field.
Russia's perimeter defense is fairly solid as well; they are ceding just 32 percent from behind the arc, with more than half the teams they've played making six or fewer three-pointers.
Both Argentina and Russia have some of the best non-American point guards in the tournament, in the forms of Pablo Prignoni and Aleksey Shved, respectively.
Argentina will rely on aging players Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola for production. Both are averaging close to 20 points a game in the tournament; both are shooting better than 50 percent from the field.
Ginobili and Scola have combined for 71 rebounds, 48 assists, 15 steals and five blocks.
The bottom line is that Ginobili and Scola, realizing that this is the last chance for Argentina's "Golden Generation" to win a medal in a major tournament, will have strong performances that will make the difference in the game.
Final score: Argentina 86, Russia 78