The safest pick turned into the biggest upset of the tournament. Russia beat the United States and advanced to the semifinals after being close to elimination just a few days ago. The Russians completed a very good game offensively and eliminated a poor American team.
Russia was clear about what they needed to do. Lots of activity off the ball, good ball distribution, smart decisions and outside shooting. Players cutting to the basket found uncontested layups easily. Dmitry Kulagin was there to make the difference in 1vs1 situations when Plan A didn't work. The outside shot (12/29 in three's) worked nicely, especially in the first half, when Russia opened a 10-point gap right before halftime.
The USA survived thanks to its athleticism, rebound domination and Jeremy Lamb's talent. Basically the same recipe they had used all tournament long, but today their overall offense was extremely bad. No plans, no play sets. The offense was reduced to Lamb's creativity and individual actions from Jackson (against hurting his team rather than organizing). Meyers Leonard was active and effective off the pick and roll and in offensive rebounding but didn't see many clear touches. The USA limited itself with many poorly selected jumpers and couldn't run the floor as much as they wanted, as Russia shot the ball well and didn't make many mistakes.
After trailing by 10 points, the USA came back late in the third quarter (54-53). Russia was missing shots and lost their rhythm. It looked like the Americans were going to control the game just with athleticism and Jeremy Lamb making shots in individual plays. But Russia got back to the game. An outstanding fade-away jumper by Dmitry Kulagin helped them. A bit later, it was Vladislav Trushkin's time. First two huge three-pointers. There was still plenty of time but there was no way the USA could react to the kind of offensive game Russia displayed today. Trushkin grabbed a key offensive rebound (the boards were completely dominated by the Americans until then) to score again (71-66). Joe Jackson missed two free throws and Trushkin broke the game open with the play of the match. A ridiculous three-pointer at the buzzer from 9-10 meters (74-68). The game was over with 36 seconds to go. Vladislav Trushkin had scored 11 consecutive points to seal the win.
Paul Hewitt declared in the press conference that the USA team didn't practice yesterday as the kids needed a day off. But he said the team prepared for this game. It didn't look like it. The reigning champion won't repeat the title it won two years ago in New Zealand. Russia advances to the medal round against the odds. Lithuania will be their rival.
Dmitry Kulagin was named the MVP of the game after scoring 12 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Vladislav Trushkin was the Russian hero with 19 points, including 11 in a row in crunch time. Alexander Varnakov was quietly important with 11 points and some decisive plays. Only three American players scored more than 5 points today. Jeremy Lamb reached 21 points in his "Lamb against the world" show. Joe Jackson and Meyers Leonard added 14 and 13 points respectively.
This post was written by International Scout and Correspondent Alejandro Gonzalez and Carl Berman of NetScouts Basketball. Alejandro, Carl and NetScouts Basketball can be followed on twitter @Eil82, @carlberman and @netscouts.