This game mattered to Team USA — the winner likely ends up the No. 2 seed in Group B, which puts them on the USA’s side of the bracket in the medal round and could set up a semi-final game against the winner.
But that’s not why we watched it. Brazil and Russia put on the best game of the Olympics Thursday afternoon.
It was a game that needed soon-to-be Timberwolves guard Alexey Shved knocking down a contested three with :30 seconds left to tie the game.
He was answered by Brazil’s amazing point guard Marcelinho Huertas who, with time running down, drove the lane (away from a Nene pick) and hit a ridiculous scoop under the arm of the rotating big, off the glass with English layup to put Brazil up 74-72 with just 6 seconds left.
That gave Russia’s coach Dave Blatt time to draw up one last play. He had Vitaly Fridzon set a screen at the free throw line then flare off a screen from the Russian center to the short-side corner and it worked — Fridzon was open, caught the ball, turned and shot while the falling Brazilian defender took out his feet mid-air.
Didn’t matter — nothing but net.
And no foul call. Brazil got one last shot but Leandro Barbosa missed and Russia won 75-74 to improve to 3-0 in pool play.
Another soon-to-be Timberwolf big Andrei Kirilenko led Russia with 19. Barbosa (a soon-to-be Laker?) led Brazil with 16 points.
Brazil had won but not looked impressive doing so up until this game, but this was by far their best effort of the tournament.
But now a USA/Russia semi-finals match in the medal round is possible — and that is no gimme for the USA. Shved gives Russia good guard play (they will not constantly turn the ball over) and they have size and skill up front with Kirilenko and Timofey Mozgov.
That is, unless Russia can hit some other key shots and knock off Spain in group play, completely upsetting the apple cart. Or, maybe beet cart, in this case. Win Group B and you can avoid Team USA all the way to the Gold Medal game.