Russia-China Preview

Considered a potential sleeper to medal, Russia opened some eyes

with an impressive start to the Olympics.

The performance shouldn’t be lost on NBA teams, either.

Andrei Kirilenko and Alexsey Shved look to build on their strong

opening performance when they face China in a Group B game on

Tuesday.

Facing a Britain team eager to put on a strong showing as the

Games’ host country, Russia had no trouble matching its intensity

and cruised to a 95-75 victory on Sunday.

Russia, which won one game and finished in ninth place at the

Beijing Games, had to like what it saw from Kirilenko and

Shved.

Kirilenko finished with 35 points on 14-of-17 shooting, while

Shved added 16 points and 13 assists. Both will play for the

Minnesota Timberwolves next season after signing contracts last

week.

“If I’m the Minnesota Timberwolves, I have a big, fat smile on

my face,” Russian coach David Blatt said.

Kirilenko, better known for his defense during his 10 years with

the Utah Jazz from 2001-11, looked refreshed after deciding to play

in Russia last season and avoiding a grueling NBA season that was

compacted by the lockout.

“I feel great,” said Kirilenko, who signed a two-year, $20

million contract on Friday. “Look at me. I’m running like a young

deer.”

Kirilenko did plenty of running and slashing toward the basket,

and Shved found him time and again for lob passes and backdoor

cuts. Seven of his assists went to Kirilenko.

“I said prepare right now for Minnesota, that’s how you’re going

to find me,” Kirilenko said. “I think he’s doing a good job. Last

year we played together. We’ve got connection. He knows when I’m

going to cut. I know when he going to start driving so I give him

space.”

While the offense proved to be too much for Britain – shooting

62.7 percent from the field – Russia also wore down the hosts with

its defensive pressure. It finished with 11 steals, nine blocked

shots and limited the British to 4-of-26 shooting from 3-point

range.

Vitaliy Fridzon led Russia with four steals and also scored 14

points, the only other player on the team to reach double

figures.

The Russians boast an intimidating frontcourt with the 6-foot-10

Kirilenko, 7-1 Timofey Mozgov and 6-11 Sasha Kaun, and they’ll be

in charge of trying to contain Yi Jianlian, China’s 6-11

forward.

Yi, currently a free agent after spending last season with the

Dallas Mavericks, had a game-high 30 points and 12 rebounds in

Sunday’s opener against Spain, but it wasn’t enough as China lost

97-81.

China got off to an encouraging start against a Spanish team

expected to be perhaps the biggest threat to the U.S. It trailed by

two points after one quarter and was within seven early in the

fourth, but Spain went on a 9-0 run and China never threatened

again.

China couldn’t keep up with Spain’s depth, as its bench was

outscored 50-12.