Russian coach says USA not cheated out of gold in 1972 Olympics

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David_blatt.jpgIt remains one of the most controversial basketball games ever.

The ending of the 1972 Olympic gold medal game in Munich featured a Russian team getting three chances to inbound the ball late in the game and down one point, and it was on the third they were able to execute a length of the court pass and layup that gave Russia the gold medal (the first time the USA hadn’t won the gold since 1936).

The USA team considered it unfair and never picked up their silver medals, not showing up to the ceremony in protest.

But Russian coach David Blatt — who grew up a Celtics fan in Massachusetts — says it was the right call, as reported at TrueHoop.

“By the way, there’s a wonderful film about that, and I hate to say it as an American, but it looks like the Russians were right,” Blatt said. “The American team was not cheated. Funny things happened, but in reality it was fair. It was fair.”

The USA and Russia will play each other Thursday in the FIBA World Championship quarterfinals, 38 years to the day after that infamous game.

The USA team now is filled with NBA players — young ones primarily this time around, but guys still seasoned by NBA-level play. Back in 1972 we sent our top college kids, that year led by Doug Collins (yes, Sixers coach Doug Collins) and Paul Westphaul (now the Kings coach). The team was coached by the legendary Henry Iba, who demanded a slow-paced offense and a focus on defense. Bill Walton was the notable absence, having been advised by doctors to take the summer off due to knee issues he was already having (although other factors about coaching and his USA experience in 1970 played into his decision).

The Russians had what was essentially a professional team, part of the Russian military technically the team was older and had played 400 games together ad were much older.

The USA had rolled almost untested to the gold medal game, but in the Russians found the most talented foe they had faced. And a team that like the slow pace the Americans were forced to play at by Iba.

Russia controlled this game. The USA was down by five points at halftime and at the start of the fourth quarter were down 10.

The USA’s Kevin Joyce sparked a comeback that had the USA down one with 30 seconds remaining. The Russians tried to protect that lead by running out the clock (there was no three point line at the time so today’s strategy of fouling was far less effective). Then Collins intercepted a Russian cross-court pass and went racing for a breakaway layup only to be fouled in the act of shooting.

Two pressure free throws, and he drained both. The USA was up one with three seconds on the clock.

The Russians inbounded the ball then with one second left the referees stopped the game. They gave in to complaints from the Russian coach that he had called a time out between Collins free throws that was never granted. Three seconds were put back on the clock and after the timeout given late the Russians got another chance.

The Russians inbounded the ball again, didn’t score and the USA players celebrated… until the referees said the Russians got to inbound the ball again. They said the clock had not been reset to three seconds and the play had to be done over. Again.

The third time a Russia’s Alexander Belov caught a length-of-the-court pass and laid in the game winner.

It was a game — played in then Soviet bloc East Germany — that was filled with Cold War implications and politics. Whether what happened or not was fair has divided the international basketball community ever sense. (Even some American writers, such as the Los Angeles Times Randy Harvey, weren’t convinced the USA was cheated.)

Thursday the teams and stakes will be completely different. But the ghost of the 1972 game will be haunting the game in Turkey, a shadow over the latest matchup in this rivalry.

Matthew Dellavedova steals pass, hits wild scoop shot at buzzer (VIDEO)

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Matthew Dellavedova is a hustler. Everybody knows that. Well, unless you want to argue he’s more about grit. It’s really your call.

But against the Boston Celtics on Sunday, Dellavedova came through with whatever you want to call it — hustle, grit, moxie, gumption.

As the first quarter wound down and the Celtics tried to inbound the ball, Dellavedova spied his opponents rolling the basketball in order to save time on the clock.

That allowed the Australian native to fly in and do this:

That’s a steal, a scoop, and a score all within 1.2 seconds.

Milwaukee won Game 4 and evened the series with the Celtics, 2-2.

Cavaliers tie series with Pacers in Indiana, 2-2

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Sunday night’s game between the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers was raucous. Bankers Life Fieldhouse was rocking, and despite Indiana’s best effort to put back seemingly every offensive board it encountered, LeBron James‘ 32 points was just too much to overcome.

Facing the possibility of going down 3-1 in the first round, the Cavaliers pulled out the win, 104-100, and sent the series back to Ohio for Game 5.

The game came down to the final period following a surge by the Pacers to end the third quarter. The teams were tied several times midway through the fourth, but a tip shot by Thaddeus Young wth 6:13 left gave the Pacers the lead as fans in Indiana went wild.

Cleveland then came roaring back. At the three-minute mark, James drove to the basket and scored. Thirty seconds later, Kyle Korver hit a big-time 3-pointer to put the Cavaliers up by four points, a mark the Pacers couldn’t recover from.

LeBron scored again with 1:52 left, and despite some weird late-game antics — featuring none other than Lance Stephenson — the Cavaliers were able to remain resolute down the stretch.

James finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists. Kyle Korver added 18 points on 4-of-9 shooting from deep, and Kevin Love had five points with 11 boards.

Victor Oladipo struggled for Indiana, scoring 17 points but shooting just 25 percent from the floor. Seven Pacers finished in double-digits, with Young notching an impressive double-double of 12 points and 16 rebounds.

Game 5 will be played in Cleveland on Wednesday, April 25.

Wizards beat Raptors in Game 4, tie series at 2-2 heading to Toronto

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The Toronto Raptors were far and away the best team in the Eastern Conference this season. The Washington Wizards were … well, very Wizard-y.

So considering their regular seasons, the fact that Washington was able to tie the first round series between the two teams at 2 games apiece on Sunday is pretty astonishing.

Bradley Beal had 31 points and five rebounds for the Wizards while teammate John Wall added 27 points to go along with a whopping 14 assists. Washington shot an impressive 41 percent from 3-point range as four of five starters finished in double-digit scoring.

Despite Beal’s performance, it was Wall who saved the day for the Wizards. Beal was disqualified after fouling out with around five minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Beal didn’t agree with the call, and could be seen throwing a towel near the Washington bench.

For his part, Wall either scored or assisted on 10 of the Wizards’ final 14 points of the game. That helped stave off the likes of DeMar DeRozan, who led all scorers with 35 points.

The series heads back to Toronto for Game 5, which will be played on Wednesday, April 25.

Marcus Smart wants to be back for Game 6 vs. Bucks

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Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been out for some time after injuring his thumb earlier in the year. The absence of one of Boston’s most important guards has been felt even more so after Kyrie Irving went down following knee surgery.

In short, the Celtics would like to have Smart back on the floor.

We’re now close enough that Smart has begun to give solid timeframes to reporters. Speaking to media on Sunday, Smart said that his plan is to be back for Game 6 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Boston took on Milwaukee on Sunday in Game 4.

Via ESPN:

Right now, [a Game 6 return is] the plan and we’re still on the same track,” Smart said before Game 4 on Sunday. “I’ve been doing everything but contact, so I will be able to go and start that.”

Smart said he believes the thumb is ready for contact.

“The surgery did its job,” said Smart, who injured himself March 11 while diving for a loose ball in a game against the Indiana Pacers. “Thumb is holding up well. I feel ready, I feel strong enough to get back out there. I’m just waiting on the OK.”

The series between the Celtics and Bucks has been tumultuous, a back-and-forth affair as an injury-riddled Boston squad takes on a healthy but offensively-sluggish Milwaukee team. Smart could add a shot of life for Boston in a much-needed way.

The Bucks won Game 4 and the series is now tied, 2-2. Game 6 would be on Thursday, April 26 if need be.