By Cindy Garcia-Bennett
It took a while for Andrei Kirilenko and Russia to heat up, but once they did there was no way Portugal could stop them in the first game of Friday's qualifying round in Madrid.
Kirilenko had a game-high 16 points, pulled down four rebounds and dished out three assists as the Russians progressed to the quarter finals.
"I don't think we did a great job on the defensive end tonight but we won and that's the most important thing " said Kirilenko.
|Andrei Kirilenko had another big night for Russia with a game-high 16 points.|
Kirilenko had great support from Victor Khryapa, who contributed 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Having scraped their way into the qualifying round after surprisingly beating Latvia, Portugal put up a brave fight but failed to keep up with the Russian machine.
Trailing 52-41 midway through the third quarter, Russia went on a 10-0 run, with JR Holden scoring five points in that surge, to take command.
"I'm just happy we got a win today," said Holden.
"This was important to put us on the way to the quarter-finals.
"But we still have some work to do. We got a little bit sloppy when we were up pretty big a lot of the second half. We need to clear some things up and get ready for Spain now."
Kirilenko scored eight points as his team went into the second quarter with a 16-13 lead.
Russia applied full-court pressure and went on a 5-0 run but Portugal hit back with Elvis Evora scoring the next five points to temporarily crash Russia's hopes of pulling away.
A three-ball by Zakhar Pashutin gave Russia their biggest lead at 36-20 with less than four minutes before the break.
Mario Fernandez's jumpshot allowed Portugal to trail 47-30 at half-time, with Kirilenko leading Russia in scoring with 12 points.
Portugal limited Russia to just two points in the first two minutes after the restart and reduced the deficit 48-37.
They would get no closer, though.
Russia went into the last stanza with a 68-49 advantage.
Portugal never gave up and reduced the deficit to 70-55 with eight minutes left to play but that is as close as they got.
Russia were superior shooting the ball from the floor, they were 29 of 59 (49%) while Portugal were 22 of 64(34%).
However, David Blatt's men struggled from the free-throw line, as they were 15 of 27 (56%) while Portugal were 15 of 16 (94%).
Portugal were outrebounded 41 to 37.