Russia has won its first ever medal in men's basketball, defeating Argentina for bronze early Sunday in an instant classic. Russia took an 81-77 victory after a final 20 seconds that included a narrowly missed go-ahead three-pointer by Argentina's Andres Nocioni, a Russian turnover that could have given Argentina a last gasp and a Russia steal and breakaway layup that iced the game. All of that came after a fourth quarter that, in the end, boiled down to a shooting contest between the Minnesota Timberwolves' Alexey Shved and the legendary Manu Ginobili.
That Shved won is nothing short of amazing.
The young Russian finished with 25 points, 13 of those in the fourth. He shot 8-16 from the field and 6-11 on three-pointers, and had seven assists to just one turnover. It was a brilliant performance against cagey veteran Pablo Prigioni, and Shved never blinked when Manu created magic in the fourth.
Ginobili is expected to retire from international play, and the rest of the Golden Generation (including Luis Scola) might follow. Despite lacking a medal, this was a perfect game to remember Manu The Olympian by. He had 21 points, and was just nasty in the fourth, with Eurostep drives to acrobatic layups and tough pull-up three-pointers. He was magical, as he always has been on whatever stage he has graced. We will all miss Manu in The Games.
Russia had not medaled in men's basketball since it was the U.S.S.R. Andrei Kirilenko led the team throughout the tournament, but was relatively quiet during the fourth quarter on Sunday. But in the final minute, he did have a vital offensive rebound that earned Russia extra points from the line.
The gold medal game is slated for 10 a.m. ET. Team USA will face Spain in a 2008 repeat.
You can find a complete medal tracker at SI.com.