While all the talk has been focused on the gold-medal matchup between Team USA and Spain, the battle for the bronze between Russia and Argentina has already stolen the show.
Russia beat Argentina by a score of 81-77 after one of the wildest endings fans could want.
With the 2012 Summer Olympics coming to a close on Sunday, there was no better way to end these amazing London Games than with a battle like the one we saw in the bronze-medal game of the men’s basketball tournament.
Add in a plethora of well-known NBA names in this matchup (Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Andrei Kirilenko, etc.), and any basketball fan up early enough to enjoy the action was treated to an amazing showing.
Whatever country you’re from, this third-place battle is why we love basketball.
While the USSR won Olympic hardware, HoopsHype notes that Russia never won a men’s basketball medal:
If Russia wins, it's the first basketball medal for them at the Olympics. (Not counting the USSR medals).— HoopsHype (@hoopshype) August 12, 2012
Basketball fan Jason Kim shares the same feeling most of the fans watching the bronze-medal game have felt:
Really should sleep but this Argentina-Russia game is too good right now. #London2012— Jason Kim (@jasonkim92) August 12, 2012
USC journalism student Aaron Fischman talks about where Argentina struggles and where Russia thrived:
Talk about Argentina's poor defense all you want, but I'm so impressed w/ Russia's passing today.— Aaron Fischman (@aaronhartf) August 12, 2012
Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski talks about one of the younger stars for the Russian team that shined on Sunday and a screen that Man Ginobili took that looked very painful:
Russia's Alexey Shved -- on his way to Timberwolves -- taking over final minutes of bronze game vs. Argentina. Russia, 71-66 w/ 4:16 left.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) August 12, 2012
Khryapa just crushed Ginobili with a shoulder to the face on an illegal screen. Laid him out. Surprise, surprise: Manu's up and wants ball.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) August 12, 2012
Russia wins bronze, and with Argentines furious at the referees, Manu Ginobili pulls them together, away from trouble, one last time.— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) August 12, 2012
The Russians played an intense game in the low post that built a presence that forced Argentina to respect them and play closer to the net. With cleaner outside shots, the Russians were able to dish their passes to the outside and hit the open looks.
With so many players stepping up in the offensive and defensive ends of the court, the Russians' team effort is what allowed them to beat the favored Argentinians. For a young Russian team, there will be plenty of chances at Olympic glory in the future.
After years of going without an Olympic medal in men’s basketball, Russia finally brings home a bronze for their home country after being so dominant in the sport for years as the USSR.
With most of Team Argentina getting towards the end of their careers, this may be the last time we see their dangerous national team at this high of a level, at least until they find younger stars.
Russia had far more depth than the Argentinians, and it showed when Manu got in some foul trouble. If it wasn’t for some tough calls early, this may have been a much different game.
If this is indeed Ginobili’s last Olympics, it will be sad to not see him fighting harder than anyone else when the medals are on the line, but there is little doubt that he will be the coach of that national team sooner rather than later.
Game MVP: Alexey Shved, Russia
While the NBA fans don’t know much about him yet, the newest Minnesota Timberwolves international star shined a bit for the Russian team when he stole the show in the fourth quarter and helped win his country a bronze medal.
With 25 points, seven assists and five rebounds, Shved looked solid at both ends of the court and was not afraid to take the ball and lead the team in crunch time. Between his skill and his maturation process, watch out for this kid in the NBA next season.
With the Summer Games coming to a close Sunday, Aug. 12, this is the end of the road for what has been an amazing Olympic basketball tournament for both Argentina and Russia.
Not much was expected from the third-place game, but both nations are very proud and didn’t want to lose the chance to medal. As we saw, these teams left everything on the floor in their battle for the bronze.
No matter which nation you were rooting for, this was a great game of hard-fought basketball.