Spain Edge Russia To Play For Gold

10.08.2012

OLYMPICS 2012

Pau Gasol, Spain celebrating after winning the Olympic Semi-Final against Russia
In an intensive semi-final between European powerhouses Pau Gasol's Spain topped Andrei Kirilenko's Russia

Spain turned Russia's dream start in Friday's first Olympic Semi-Final into a second-half nightmare.

Sparked by their defense, and the three-point shooting of Rudy Fernandez and Jose Calderon, Spain came from 13 points down in the first half and prevailed, 67-59.

They will meet the winner of the second Semi-Final between Argentina and the United States in Sunday's title game.

The USA beat Spain in the gold-medal clash in Beijing four years ago, 118-107.

"It's huge to make it twice in a row to the Final of the Olympics, four years apart," said Spain's Pau Gasol, who led his team with 16 points.

"For our country, it's obviously a huge accomplishment.

"We don't want to be satisfied by just getting to the Final."

For the first 20 minutes, Russia looked as if they wouldn't be denied.

They got a shot in the arm from captain Sergey Monya, who was a perfect three of three from long range.

More importantly, the Russia defense gave nothing away inside, even fouling and making Spain score points from the free-throw line.

The Spaniards were just two of 11 from the arc in the first half and six of 29 from the floor.

They also missed three of their nine free-throws.

Russia, meanwhile, were five of 14 from the arc and 13 of 35 from the floor overall before half-time but did not attempt a free-throw.

"We were just playing the first half with too much tension, too much anxiety," Gasol said.

"It seemed like the rim was getting smaller and smaller with every shot that we missed.

"We just had to relax, trust ourselves, take the shots with confidence and open the defense up because they would collapse in the paint and there was no space for us."

The second-half was a complete different story.

The Spaniards started hitting jumpers, and also got points in transition after forcing Russia to turn the ball over.

Russia had 10 of their 13 turnovers in the second half.

In the first half, Calderon and Fernandez were a combined one of six from behind the arc.

After the break, the two were a combined six of 10.

"After the first half, when we couldn't make a shot, our defense kept us in the game," Calderon said.

"In the locker room we just talked, said we had to try and be more patient and just play basketball and not to try and win the game with one shot.

Sergey Monya, Russia
Sergey Monyaled the chaarge for Russia in the first half

"We were in too much of a rush.

"Maybe we were too excited about trying to get to the Final. But we said at half-time, "Look, we need to relax. We've been through this before. With these 11 guys, we can go anywhere.

"We started moving the ball, starting hitting shots, our defense was much better."

Calderon finished with 14 points and both Marc Gasol and Fernandez contributed 11.

Andrei Kirilenko was bothered by a quad injury and Russia coach David Blatt told his star he didn't have to play and that he'd already given Russia a lot in this tournament.

But according to Blatt, Kirilenko said: "I'm here to play."

He was two of 12 from the field and scored 10 points

Kirilenko did have eight rebounds and two steals.


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