LONDON – Russia and Spain will square off in one Olympic semifinal, both of them having survived in quarterfinal action North Greenwich Arena Wednesday.
Russia survived a late Lithuania rally and held on for an 83-74 win behind Andrei Kirilenko‘s 19 points and 13 rebounds and some clutch shooting late from captain Sergey Monya. They led five players in double digits for Russia, which finished first in pool play from Group B.
“Sergey Monya, our captain, is the face of everything we do, the face of Russia,” said Russia’s coach David Blatt. “He has played in every game for Russia in the seven years I have been with the team. He came up the biggest at the right time. He made the two biggest shots of the game and maybe of our career together.”
Spain had to survive France and some late-game licks to advance. They closed the game on a 12-2 run and won 66-59 to set up Friday’s semifinal matchup against Russia.
Nicolas Batum took a nasty swing at Juan Carlos Navarro, balling up his fist and swinging below the belt with 24 seconds to play. His frustration boiled over after his team’s inability to finish with a flourish, the loss itself and Spain’s “flopping” as France exited the competition before the medal round.
It was the second or third such incident of the competition, with Chris Paul of the U.S. and Facundo Campazzo of Argentina both taking swings (or at least Paul was accused of taking one) during their last pool play game Monday night.
“I just wanted to give him a good reason to flop,” an unapologetic Batum said after the game. He was called for an unsportmanlike foul but wasn’t ejected from the game. And as players from both sides shook hands, Batum was in the middle of the mix without incident.
He objected to Spain’s tactics afterwards, though, insisting that he Spaniards resorted to acting late with the game on the line.
“That’s not basketball,” he said, haven taken particular offense to the reaction of Rudy Fernandez after he was fouled by Ronny Turiaf in front of the scorer’s table moments earlier. “Sometimes, you have to give them a good reason to flop. And I hope I did.”