Olympics: Russia, Spain set-up semi-final clash

Russia will have the chance to play for an Olympic medal for the first time since the breakup of the Soviet Union after beating Lithuania 83-74 Wednesday to reach the men's basketball semi-finals.

Andrei Kirilenko scored 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds and Timofey Mozgov added 17 points to spark Russia into a Friday matchup against reigning European champion Spain, which advanced by defeating France 66-59.

Pau Gasol had 10 points and 11 rebounds for Spain.

"This is a big step for our country and our basketball," said Russia captain Sergey Monya. "I think we deserve this."

Other quarter-finals later Wednesday pit Brazil against Argentina and Australia against the unbeaten US NBA Dream Team.

Russian and US talent could meet in the gold medal game on Sunday for the first time since a controversial 1972 Soviet triumph, although even a semi-final loss would put the Russians in a bronze-medal game.

"The Americans are all stars but we for sure would like to play them," said Russian guard Alexey Shved, who will join the NBA Minnesota Timberwolves next season along with Kirilenko.

And Lithuania coach Kestutis Kemzura gives the Russians a solid chance to defeat the American multi-millionaire superstar lineup.

"USA is great. It has lots of talent," Kemzura said. "You have to play really smart, good basketball, be physical and concentrate.

"The Russian team is tactically and physically strong. They can make trouble for US team. I think they can (beat them)."

Russian coach David Blatt, an American who has spent seven years revamping the Russian program, is taking the one game at a time approach.

"I would love to win a medal and be part of history for Russian basketball," he said.

But he offered up a hint about how Russia's teamwork, the core of his team being together for seven years, might cause problems for a US NBA Dream Team that was assembled just five weeks ago from past world and Olympic champions.

"I don't think we're as strong," Blatt said. "We do things that allow us to gain from the whole rather than the sum of its parts."

Lithuania scored 11 points in a row to pull within 54-53, the run capped by a 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter from Rimantas Kaukenas, who led his team with 19 points.

But the Russians answered with an 8-0 run, Monya hitting a 3-pointer and a fast break layup in the spurt, which brought a 64-55 edge with 5:46 to play. Vitaliy Fridzon and Kirilenko added late free throws to seal Russia's triumph.

"We took our chances. We fought," Kemzura said. "Playing against Russia, every mistake turns into points for your opponent. We turned the ball over too much."

"It was a battle," Blatt said. "You are in there fighting. That was a boxing match. I'm glad we were able to finish ahead on points."

Lithuania had played for bronze in the past five Olympics, winning in 1992, 1996 and 2000 but losing out in 2004 and 2008.


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