Sept. 7, 2010 • Istanbul, Turkey
Following its impressive 121-66 victory over Angola Monday night, the USA players had a clear day Tuesday to do whatever they wished.
The USA coaching staff reviewed video and prepared the game plan for the USA's quarterfinals game Thursday against Russia, and took in Tuesday's Lithuania-China and Argentina-Brazil games.
The players spent time doing an assortment of things. Anything from getting out and seeing some sights around Istanbul, to shopping at the Spice Bazaar, or just sleeping and relaxing.
Kevin Love celebrated his 22nd birthday and enjoyed a chocolate birthday cake and even had a solid rendition of Happy Birthday sung to him on his big day.
It's back to work Wednesday as the U.S. will be back practicing and getting some prep time for its clash with Russia. The winner of the quarterfinals clash, which is being televised live by ESPN and NBA TV, keeps its gold medal dreams alive and earns a trip to medal round semifinals which takes place Saturday.
There is perhaps no better rivalry over the ages in international basketball than USA-Russia...or USA-Soviet Union when that country was one.
Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, the USA is 3-1 versus Russia in World Championship play and was 4-5 all-time versus the Soviet Union in World Championship games. The U.S. posted wins over Russia in second round play in 2002 (106-82), and won 137-91 in the 1994 World Championship gold medal game in Toronto, and also earned a 111-94 win in 1994 in the quarterfinals round.
The USA's lone setback to Russia came in the 1998 World Championship when the U.S. team was comprised of collegians and professional players from Europe because of the NBA lockout. The USA's quest for World Championship gold came to a halt in the smeifinals after Russia overcame a 10-point U.S. lead in the final three minutes and forward Serguei Panov went coast-to-coast to score a layup with 4 seconds left to give his team an improbable 66-64 win.
More recently, the USA claimed an 89-68 win in an exhibition game (8/3/08) between the two squads in Shanghai, China, that was held in advance of the 2008 Olympic Games. Kobe Bryantled the American offensive effort with a game high 19 points, while Carmelo Anthony finished with 17 points and seven rebounds, and Dwyane Wade recorded 16 points. Russia was paced by Utah Jazz standout Andrei Kirilenko's 18 points, while American J.R. Holden, who played at Bucknell University, added 17 points.
Of course the USA and then USSR had a great rivalry in World Championship play from 1959-1986 (note the USSR did not compete in the 1950 or 1954 World Championships). In 1986, the last time the USA-USSR met in the World Championship, the U.S. collegians stunned the Soviets, who were led by 7'2" Arvidas Sabonis and sharpshooter Vlademaras Khomichus. The U.S. earned an 87-85 victory and World Championship gold after Kenny Smith sealed the win in 1986 with a layup over Sabonis with 15 seconds remaining in the game.
In 1982 the U.S. fell just short of a gold medal game victory 95-94 after a last second shot by the Americans fell off target. Earlier in action during the 1982 Worlds, the U.S. handed an undefeated Soviet team a 99-93 setback. It was the Soviets lone setback in 1982. Interestingly, “Doc” Rivers, now of course head coach of the Boston Celtics, was the USA’s leading scorer in 1982 averaging 17.0 ppg.