Basketball: Kirilenko helps Russia secure last-four place

 

Russia made the most out of their strength under the basket to beat Lithuania 83-74 and advance to the semi-finals of the Olympic men's basketball tournament yesterday.

Andrei Kirilenko produced his usual brilliant all-round game for Russia, while burly centre Timofei Mozgov operated down low with great effect to carry the Russians to the medals round in a gruelling battle marked by determined defence.

Kirilenko led Russia with 19 points and had a game-high 13 rebounds, while Mozgov added 17 points.

Russia will play Spain, who defeated France 66-59 in the other quarter-final, in the last four tomorrow.

"It was a physical game. Lithuania, they're a physical team," Mozgov said. "They were strong. The whole game was tough. Everybody's tired now but it was a good game."

Mozgov cleaned up around the basket in the first quarter to help lift Russia to a 17-10 first-quarter lead, and Kirilenko took over in the second quarter to allow the Russians to carry a 32-27 lead into the intermission.

Both teams struggled with their shooting in the first game played at the 20,000-seat North Greenwich Arena following preliminary round games played in the cosier 12,000-seat Olympic Basketball Arena.

Lithuania shot a poor 33 per cent and Russia were not much better, connecting on 37 per cent of their attempts, while making only five of 14 foul shots before half-time.

"We were playing great and then we go to the free throw line and we can't throw a ball in the ocean," lamented the Russian coach, David Blatt.

Both teams began to find the range in the second half. Kirilenko took the initiative early and Mozgov weighed in later with a pair of dunks that helped Russia to a 52-39 lead toward the end of the third quarter. Lithuania, however, battled back with an 11-2 run that made it 54-50 going into the fourth quarter.

A three-pointer by Rimantas Kaukenas made it a one-point game at 54-53 before the Russians recovered. Mozgov and Kirilenko did not suffer the shooting woes of the rest. Kirilenko made five of eight from the floor, and Mozgov was good on six of 11 shots.

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