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
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
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,”
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
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
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