Alexey Shved, Russia bounced early from EuroBasket event
Alexey Shved's summer stint with Russia's national team ended on a sour note.
By PHIL ERVINFS North
This time a year ago, Alexey Shved was basking in the glory of international basketball stardom, a bronze Olympic medal hanging somewhere in his possession.
For the second-year
Timberwolves reserve, that aura carried over to EuroBasket 2013. The same can't be said for the Russian Federation as a whole, though.
A year after beating Argentina in the London Olympics' third-place game, the Russians wrapped up a dismal showing in Slovenia with an 89-77 win against Turkey -- their only victory in the all-European international team tournament. They failed to advance past the preliminary round-robin stage, meaning Shved should be in Minneapolis before too long to prepare for training camp.
Russia's 1-4 finish renders a FIBA wild-card gift its only chance at qualifying for next summer's World Cup. A step back at EuroBasket was certainly expected when former Timberwolves forward Andrei Kirilenko, Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov and fellow big man Sasha Kaun weren't slated to participate, but no one from Shved's part of the world expected such a significant downturn.
Shved did his part to try and avoid one.
The 6-foot-6, 190-pound point guard ranked 10th in scoring through the tourney's first stage with 16.4 points per game and eighth with 4.8 assists a contest. He dished out nine in Russia's win Monday and scored 25 points in a loss to Finland on Sunday.
Until Monday, that stood as the tournament's best offensive night. But Russia struggled mightily on defense, yielding a field-worst 80 points per game.
So while he may be pleased with his individual performance -- Minnesota coaches and executives certainly should be -- Shved will return to the states on a rather sour note.
Spanish roll: Ricky Rubio and Spain have rebounded from a surprising loss to EuroBasket's host country and reclaimed their place as the tournament's favorite.
Minnesota's starting point guard and his countrymen finished 4-1 in Pool C play with an 83-59 drubbing of Georgia on Monday. Rubio led the way with 16 points via 7-for-7 shooting, and his only miss came from the free-throw line.
It was the Spaniards' third victory in a row -- all by 21 points or more -- since falling 78-69 to Slovenia last week. After advancing, two-time defending champion Spain takes on Greece, Finland and Italy in a second round-robin stage that will help decide the tournament's eight-team, championship bracket field.
Through five games, Rubio leads his nation with 3.8 assists per game and is averaging 10.8 points an outing.
Eurobasket concludes Sept. 22.
Rematch for Barea, Puerto Rico: If the dust settles just so, J.J. Barea and Puerto Rico can avenge their two round-robin losses in the FIBA Americas Championship.
Either way, two more wins and they'll claim gold in the Central and South American international showcase.
Puerto Rico lost to Mexico on Sunday, the final day of group play, in a game that qualifies Mexico for the 2014 FIBA World Cup. Thanks to Barea, Puerto Rico had already locked up the same feat in an 86-85 overtime win against Venezuela on Saturday.
That day, Barea scored 30 points as Puerto Rico rallied from a 22-point hole. Their 6-2 mark was good enough to win Group A and advance to the tournament semifinals.
They'll square off once again with the Dominican Republic at 6:50 p.m. CT Tuesday in Venezuela. The Dominicans handed Puerto Rico a 99-84 defeat Friday.
Revenge against them and a Mexico victory over Argentina in the other semifinal would put Puerto Rico in position to vanquish its two previously insurmountable foes.
If his country is to do so, it'll largely be up to Barea.
The Timberwolves point guard has been mostly solid throughout the Americas tourney, which began Aug. 30. He averages 13 points per game and is shooting 40.6 percent from 3-point land -- a welcome sign for a Minnesota team that ranked last in the NBA in outside offense last year.