Russia booked their place in the semi finals with a 77-67 victory over the 2009 runners-up Serbia in Kaunas.
Andrei Kirilenko had a big fourth quarter, scoring ten points in the final ten minutes to lead Russia with 14 points.
After seeing their lead shrink to 72-67, Russian coach David Blatt called a timeout with 1.10 remaining. Kirilenko hit both free-throws to give his side a 74-67 lead, and Sergei Monya, who came up with clutch plays against Slovenia and the FYR of Macedonia hit a big triple to seal Russia’s passage to the last four.
“Today’s victory is important but tomorrow’s game is more important now, and we’ll need to be ready,” Blatt admitted.
In a slow opening, the combination of Aleksey Shved and Timofey Mozgov resulted in the latter completing an alley-oop dunk to give Russia a 12-7 lead with over three minutes left of the first.
It was the duo of Shved and Mozgov that came good again with Mozgov again finishing with a two-hand slam off the pick-and-roll to give the Russians a 14-9 advantage. Dusko Savanovic replied with a three to narrow the gap to two (14-12).
With Milos Teodosic and Savanovic the only Serbian scorers though, they struggled in the first period with Russia up 16-12 at the end.
Russia extended their lead to 11 to start the second thanks to a 7-0 run. Marko Keselj broke the run with a much-needed triple, but Vitaliy Fridzon hit back with a three-ball of his own to give Russia a 26-15 lead and force Dusan Ivkovic into a timeout.
Despite buckets from Kosta Perovic and Teodosic, Serbia couldn’t find a way to get back to the game, as Russia had answers to all of the Serbs’ points. A triple from Victor Khryapa gave the Russians a 32-24 advantage with a little over two minutes to play in the half.
Russia’s defence was outstanding – out rebounding their opponents 18-12 and recording five blocks to Serbia’s one at the interval, as Russia had a 34-27 half-time lead.
Serbia are a team though that will never back down from a challenge, down 39-31, they posted a 7-0 run to draw to within one point at 39-38, thanks to free-throws from Teodosic.
Russia got their cushion back, with Andrey Vorontsevich scoring inside, Nanad Krstic got a pair at the line before Vorontsevich popped up up again with a triple to give his side a 44-39 lead with over four minutes to play in the third.
A Kirilenko block, followed by a lay-up at the other-end from Shved at the buzzer gave Russia a 54-48 lead going into the final period.
Teodosic, who was constantly flirting with a technical foul led Serbia to within four at 58-54, Shved had earlier given Russia a 58-50 cushion.
Serbia seemed to struggle against the full-court press that Russia coach Blatt drew-up. A steal from Kirilenko and he got the ball out to Shved for the lay-up in traffic.
Serb coach Ivkovic called a timeout, with his side down 62-54.
It had no effect, Kirilenko gave Russia a double-digit lead at 64-54 and Russia were like hounds on the offensive glass. Serbia fought back though, Keselj hit from three and Savanovic scored inside to cut the deficit to 64-59.
Russia though held on.
Ivkovic congratulated his opponents afterwards: “I wish to congratulate Russia which was better tonight. They deserve this victory.
Teodosic led all scorers with 20 points in vain for Serbia.
Lithuania work hard to beat Slovenia.
In front of a near full house at the Zalgirio Arena, Lithuania finished the game on a 6-2 run to defeat Slovenia 80-77.
Miza Begic gave Slovenia a 74-72 lead with two minutes remaining, but it was the last time they had the advantage, as buckets from Rimantas Kaukenas, Sarunas Jasikevicius and Mantas Kalnietis drove the hosts home, keeping their Olympic dream alive.
Kalnietis led Lietuva with 17 points. Goran Dragic and Erazem Lorbek headed Slovenia’s charge with 16 each.