Russia-Argentina Preview

Manu Ginobili could be wearing an Argentina uniform for the

final time Sunday.

Ginobili and Argentina can celebrate the probable end of their

“golden generation” of basketball stars with another medal as they

face Russia for the bronze at the North Greenwich Arena.

There are five players left from the Argentina squad that

captured gold in Athens in 2004 and bronze in Beijing four years

later.

Sunday’s game could represent one last chance for that group of

Ginobili, Andres Nocioni, Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino and Leo

Gutierrez to earn another Olympic medal.

“It’s probably going to be one of the highlights of my career,

this group,” Ginobili said. “I’m very proud of representing my

country with these guys. We are trying to make our legend even

bigger by getting another medal. Once it’s over and we go home with

the bronze on our chests, we’ll talk about it and see how it

feels.”

Ginobili spoke candidly after Argentina’s 109-83 semifinal loss

to the United States on Friday about how this could be the last

time he plays for his country.

“A lot of things can happen. I’m 35. I know the chances are less

every year, but I can’t say I am retiring because I don’t know,”

Ginobili said.

Argentina pulled within four early in the second half Friday

before the United States took control in the third consecutive

Olympic semifinal meeting between those nations.

Ginobili led Argentina with 18 points while Scola and Delfino

each scored 15.

“We had a great run in the first half,” Ginobili said. “We

started the third very well. And then we blinked.”

The second half also proved decisive for Russia in its 67-59

loss to Spain. The Russians led 31-20 at the break before a flurry

of turnovers hampered their chances.

“We kind of started falling down,” forward Andrei Kirilenko

said. “We lost our composure. We just stopped executing.”

Russia has not won a basketball medal since the 1988 Soviet

Union team captured gold in Seoul in the last competition before

the inclusion of NBA players. A unified team comprised of athletes

from former republics of the Soviet Union lost the bronze-medal

game to Lithuania in Barcelona four years later.

Ginobili is second in the tournament in scoring with a 19.1

average while making all 31 free throws. Scola is third at 19.0

points per game.

Kirilenko is seventh with a 17.1 average, but only scored 10 on

2-of-12 shooting Friday. His 33.9 minutes per game lead all

players.

Argentina is second in points per game (87.6) while Russia leads

the competition in scoring defense (71.4 ppg) and field-goal

percent defense (39.3).

Both teams are shooting 47.9 percent, with only the U.S. higher

at 52.8.

Argentina beat Russia 73-61 in the consolation round of the

world championships two years ago – the teams’ last meeting in a

major tournament – as Scola led all scorers with 27 points.

Ginobili and Kirilenko were not with their teams for that

meeting.