Prior to the quarterfinal matchup between the United States and Russia, head coaches Mike Krzyzewski and David Blatt exchanged some less-than-friendly words through the media. The source of the mini war-of-words? A disagreement over whether or not controversy marred the 1972 Munich Olympic Gold Medal Final between the same two teams. While the verbal exchanges were making headlines prior to the game, both coaches had their teams prepared for an opportunity to move onto the semifinals of the 2010 FIBA World Championship. In the end, it was Coach Krzyzewski left with the upper hand, as his team pulled away to beat Russia 89-79.
The game was as physical and well-contested as it was expected to be. An early seven points from Kevin Durant helped the United States jump out to a quick 15-9 advantage, but a big quarter by New York Knick Timofey Mozgov helped Russia keep it close. A 7-0 run from the Russians gave them a three-point lead with a little over a minute to play in the frame. Scoring from Durant and Stephen Curry helped the U.S. even things up at 25 after the first quarter.
Russia assumed control of the game early in the second quarter. During the first five minutes, Russia outscored the United States 10-5 to take a 35-30 lead. After a timeout, the United States countered with a 12-0 run of their own led by big plays from Andre Iguodala and Derrick Rose. Exchanging a few more buckets with the remaining time in the half, Team USA emerged with a slim 44-39 advantage.
The competitive level of play was maintained through the first half of the third quarter. With about six minutes left to play in the period, the United States had only managed to increase their lead by a single point, holding on to a 53-47 lead. Then, Russell Westbrook took over. Sometimes criticized for his one-speed, seemingly out-of-control style of play, Westbrook cranked up the effort on defense, forcing multiple turnovers that resulted in easy fast-break points. Additional offensive contributions from Chauncey Billups and Lamar Odom helped the United States build a 70-56 lead at the quarter.
Though Russia refused to roll over and let the United States coast to a lopsided victory, they simply had no answer for Kevin Durant. The heralded shooter collected 10 of his overall 33 points in the fourth quarter to shut the door on the victory. After leading by as many as 18 points, Team USA took their foot off the gas just a little toward the end to advance to the semifinals with a 10-point victory over Russia.
Thursday’s win moves the United States into a semifinals matchup with Lithuania. Lithuania, who advanced with a somewhat shocking blowout win over Argentina, suffered a defeat to the U.S. by a 16-point margin in a warm-up game in August. What some may not remember about that game is that Lithuania led 29-28 at halftime after the U.S. shot just 29 percent from the field. The U.S. men certainly don’t want to have to overcome that kind of start once against Turkey.
Watch the United States take on Lithuania at 12 p.m. EST tomorrow.
images via USA Basketball