LONDON – Alexey Shved gave NBA fans a taste of what they can expect next season, lifting Russia over Argentina 81-77 for Olympic bronze Sunday to bring his homeland the first men’s basketball medal under its flag.
The 23-year-old guard scored 13 of his 25 points in the final minutes of the fourth quarter to power Russia onto a podium spot, seizing command of the game in the closing moments the way NBA stars like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James do.
“When I think about it, it was the best in my life, honestly,” Shved said of his late heroics. “To win a medal in the fourth quarter like that is great.
“I don’t understand what happened, really. I need one hour, two hours.”
Centre Sasha Kaun found the words much faster to sum up the first medal for Russia since the old Soviet Union dynasty was shattered.
“We’ve made history,” Kaun said. “We haven’t won anything since the Soviet Union fell apart. Shows how much we’ve grown.”
Shved has already signed to play for the NBA Minnesota Timberwolves next season, alongside Olympic teammate and veteran big man Andrei Kirilenko.
But Shved has shown development at the Olympics in ball-handling and directing an offence that will serve him well in trying to lift the long-time loser Timberwolves into NBA contention.
“Yeah, probably it has come in the Olympic Games,” Shved said. “I’ve developed a lot playing against these NBA guys and it’s going to help me when I get to the NBA. I’m ready for that.”
Shved, who had shot poorly for much of the Olympics, sank a 3-pointer in the final seconds to give Russia a 79-77 edge
“It was a difficult shot because if I miss we are dead,” Shved said. “It was one of the best moments of my life.”
Vitaly Fridzon added a fast break layup to seal the triumph, but Shved’s shot-making down the stretch is what doomed Argentina.
“A player who had a percentage of 22 percent in all the championship and he scores you the 3-pointers,” Argentine NBA star Manu Ginobili said. “When you allow that the game gets defined at the end, that’s just like throwing a coin.”
Argentina went home empty handed after having won Olympic gold in 2004 and bronze in 2008.
“With all my respect for Russia, I never thought we were going to lose this game,” Ginobili said.
Kirilenko added 20 points while Fridzon had 19 for Russia.
Ginobili, the top scorer in the Olympics, led Argentina with 21 points while Andres Nocioni added 16 and Carlos Delfino had 15 in a losing cause.