|29 July 2012|
Great Britain lost their first game as hosts of the 2012 London Olympics against a powerhouse Russia on Sunday night in the men's Olympic basketball tournament.
Luol Deng had 26 points for the Brits but there was no stopping Russia, who got a vintage performance from Andrei Kirilenko and another scintillating display from the Alexey Shved in a , 96-76 triumph.
Kirilenko poured in 35 points on 14 of 17 shooting from the floor and Shved finished with 16 points and 13 assists.
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"If I'm Minnesota, I've got a big, big smile on my face," Russia coach David Blatt said to FIBA Europe, referring to new Timberwolves signings Kirilenko and Shved.
Blatt, whose side captured bronze at last year's EuroBasket in Lithuania, saluted Britain for a battling display.
"It was a real pressure game because you're playing against Great Britain, and they're at home," he said.
"Also you're playing in the first game and surprises come early.
"I don't know how they finished, but they must have had 25 to 28 offensive rebounds. To win a game by 20 points and give up 25 or 28 offensive rebounds, you would be hard-pressed to find that stat anywhere."
Will Russia have tired legs as the tournament wears on, especially since they had to travel to Venezuela for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament?
"I hope not," Blatt said.
"Certainly we're game ready. I was most fearful of the game rhythm since we'd only played one game since July 7."
Spain also won their opening game, beating a good China team, 97-81.
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Sergio Scariolo's team was never comfortable until midway through the fourth quarter.
Pau Gasol had 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Spaniards.
The opening day results were not good for France or Lithuania.
Vincent Collet's side started well against Team USA and only trailed 22-21 at the end of the first quarter but the Americans pulled away in the second frame and they blew France out.
The French were just two of 22 from long range and were out-rebounded, 56-40.
Ali Traore's 12 points were a team high for France.
France's Florent Pietrus said: "We missed wide open shots because they put pressure on us and they made us take quick decisions.
"We are disappointed but before the game, we knew it was going to be a tough game for us and it was.
"But like I told my team-mates, this is just the beginning and we have to focus on the next game.
"The competition started today but it doesn't end today. We have to keep going, practice and think about our next game."
Lithuania, who like Russia made it to the London Games via the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, crashed to a 102-79 defeat to Argentina despite getting 20 points from Linas Kleiza and 14 from Paulius Jankunas.
Argentina only led 24-23 at the end of the first quarter but behind Luis Scola, Manu Ginobili and Carlos Delfino, stormed into a 12-point half-time lead and never looked back.