A strong third quarter from the United States of America saw them march on to the semi-finals, after beating Russia, 89-79 in Istanbul.
Kevin Durant led all scorers with 33 points for the victors, while Sergey Bykov hit 17 in defeat. The game was also the final curtain for Russian coach, David Blatt, an American – as he called time on his successful reign as national coach.
“I’ll remember this experience and I hope my players do.” said Blatt after the game.
Blatt continued: “It wasn’t tough (to play against his home nation), it was really a joy. I sure as hell wish I could have won, it would have been sweeter.”
USA started strongly in the third quarter, racing to their first double-digit lead at 58-47, following a dunk from Russell Westbrook. The Russians tried to stay in touch, but America were comfortable, and saw the game out.
The first ten minutes of action brought out the best in Durant, as he hit five of USA’s first eight points to give his side the advantage in the opening few minutes (8-6).
The Russians then swung the balance of power back to them, off a Bykov triple (9-8), after two minutes of scoreless action – Durant restored America’s lead from the line.
Timothy Mozgov began a 7-0 run for the Russians to give his side the edge, but USA recovered in time and at the end of one, both teams were deadlocked at 25. Durant, with 13 points.
Russia started the second period by scoring the first four points to give them a four-point lead to start (29-25) – and a further bucket from Bykov extended Russia’s advantage to 35-30 with under five minutes to play in the half.
An Andre Iguodala inspired 12-0 run after that though gave the Americans a platform to build on, as they led 44-39 at half-time – a bucket from Alexsandar Kaun narrowing the gap for Russia, as time expired.
“The main thing I told my players in that time out it’s just relax, there’s a long way to go.” USA coach, Mike Krzyzewski pointed out.
“When you play against a team that never quits you know they are going to play every possession and Russia did that.” Coach K also added.
Any hopes of a comeback from David Blatt’s troops though were fizzled out in the second half of play. A 5-0 run mid-way through the final stanza was a small bit of hope. Chauncey Billups broke that hope with a triple to condemn the Eastern Europeans to defeat.
Speaking on his opposite number, Krzyzewski graciously said: “I would like to congratulate Russia for playing such a terrific game. Coach Blatt has had an amazing career coaching in Russia and the way his team played today shows the high quality of coaching he gives his players.
“I thought we were ready and played hard. It was a very well earned win against a terrific team with a great coach.”
John Hobbs for TalkBasket.net