By Jeff Taylor
Jose Calderon led a rampant Spain past previously unbeaten Russia 81-69 at the Telefonica Arena in Madrid on Sunday night.
Calderon, the Toronto Raptors point guard, scored nine of his team-high 17 points in the third quarter when Spain took control and built a 12-point lead.
They led by as many as 15 points in the final quarter and were never seriously threatened by David Blatt’s Russians.
Beaten in their last Group B game by Croatia, the world champions have recovered nicely with triumphs over Greece and now Russia.
“It’s an important victory for us,” Juan Carlos Navarro said.
“Russia are a very difficult team to play against, they have a complete team. It’s complicated to play against a team whose perimeter players can penetrate and shoot and the inside players can run and shoot, too.”
The Spanish trailed 23-20 after the first quarter, during which Russia were 5-of-7 from 3-point range.
Andrei Kirilenko hit a three-ball for the first points of the game and then after Spain took a 7-3 lead, Victor Kryapa buried three straight from the arc in a 9-2 run to put the visitors into a 12-9 advantage.
|Despite being in foul trouble,|
Kirilenko finished with 21 points
Calderon’s second 3-pointer of the game with 28 seconds remaining in the quarter closed the gap to 23-20, and then Spain went on a 10-0 run over the first four minutes of the third quarter to lead 30-23 lead.
Russia would claw their way back and level the score at 32-32 on a pair of Kirilenko free throws with 2:53 left in the half, but a basket by Jorge Garbajosa immediately put Spain back in front and they led the rest of the way.
By half-time, Spain were in front 40-35 and at the end of third quarter, they led 63-51.
The closest Russia would get in the fourth quarter was 76-67 on a Kryapa 3-pointer with 2:55 remaining.
The next points were scored by Felipe Reyes with a jump shot at the free throw line as Spain won comfortably.
"We've played a very serious game because we knew that Russia were a good team,” Calderon said.
“We have played using our heads, especially in the second half. The fact that we weren't able to pull away further is a credit to Russia.
“But I'm nevertheless pleased that we won by a 12-point margin.”
Pepu Hernandez was relieved after the final buzzer.
“This was a very important win because we played against an extraordinary team,” he said.
“They played well and are well coached. We had trouble adjusting at times but the way we defended was great. I was happy that we adjusted our defense. We played intelligently and that's hard to do against a team like Russia.
Juan Carlos Navarro had 15 points, Pau Gasol 13 and both Reyes and Garbajosa 11 for Spain, who are so deep and so talented that Portland Trail Blazers guard Sergio Rodriguez and Unicaja Malaga shooting guard Berni Rodriguez did not even get into the game.
Russia coach David Blatt knew it would be a big ask to beat Spain but felt like his players did cause the home side some problems.
Nevertheless, he would have liked to have seen a more balanced approach on offense.
“We took too many shots from long range,” he said. “They allow that and we fell into it too many times.
“You have to play defense and minimize their easy baskets, and we failed there.
“We didn't defend well late on the shot clock, didn't do a good job in the pick-and-roll and could have done a better job in the rebounds.
“With all that, it's difficult to beat a team like Spain. We played hard, we played to win, but we weren't good enough so we'll wait for the next time.”
Russia did limit the contributions of Gasol, which pleased Blatt.
“Most teams here would be happy to hold Pau Gasol on 13 points, so I think we did a good job defensively on him."
On Tuesday, Spain play Israel while Russia take on Croatia.