Russia too strong for Team GB's basketballers

29 July 2012 / 22:15

Great Britain's long-awaited return to action in Olympic men's basketball ended in a 95-75 defeat as they were on the wrong end of an explosive display from Russian star Andrei Kirilenko.

Britain, playing Olympic men's basketball for the first time since London last hosted the Games in 1948, battled hard but committed a series of costly turnovers and were made to pay by Kirilenko, who finished with 35 points. Britain's own star Luol Deng shone brightly as he poured in 26 points and Pops Mensah-Bonsu added 22, but Russia always had an answer.

Britain started brightly after Deng scored the first points of the game. The Chicago Bulls star had given them an 11-7 edge with a three-point play, but Victor Khryapa and Alexey Shved responded with back-to-back threes. A three-pointer from Deng made it 18-17 but it was Russia who finished the first quarter the stronger as they went 24-19 ahead.

Britain got a little sloppy in the second quarter, struggling with their transition defence and, for all the emphasis they have put on taking care of the ball, giving away costly turnovers. Russia capitalised, and when Deng threw the ball straight at Shved he teed up the outstanding Kirilenko with an alley-oop pass.

Mensah-Bonsu stopped an 8-0 Russia run with a dunk and a three from Dan Clark - who was showing no signs of the ankle injury that had threatened to rule him out of the Games - made it 40-30. But the turnovers kept coming and the Russian made him pay with two free throws making it 47-32 shortly before the half.

Britain were able to keep pace with Russia in the third quarter, but still could not find a way to contain Kirilenko, who moved on to 27 points with an easy lay-up moments after Reinking's three had cut the deficit to 64-53.

Deng went coast-to-coast for a driving lay-up, drawing a foul and making it 66-56 from the line with his 20th point of the game. But Deng then missed a pair from the line when given the chance to make it a single-figure deficit.

The momentum was well and truly halted when Fridzon came up with a steal and raced into to score, drawing a foul from Freeland to add a bonus point from the line. When Shved hit a jump-shot, the gap was back out to 71-56.

Mensah-Bonsu opened the fourth quarter with a dunk, but Shved's alley-oop pass was slammed home by Kirilenko, and things got worse when Clark began to hobble badly on his ankle, showing obvious frustration as he went off.

Sullivan then fouled out when left exposed by a Reinking turnover, and Kirilenko piled on the punishment with a three-pointer that made it 81-62. Freeland made it in to double figures for Britain with 13 points. Shved finished with 16 for Russia and Fridzon added 14.