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Eurobasket Quarterfinals: Russia vs. Serbia

September 16, 2011

After the game, Russian head coach David Blatt “described Kirilenko’s game as ‘unbelievable’ and compared [him] to a ‘beautiful wild horse.'”

“He’s best when he’s running around the court and he’s free. Most of his best plays come from instinct. I try to tell him a little about how to play, but it only seems to bother him,” Blatt said.

“You can’t teach or coach what he does, and you can’t prepare against him. Thank God he’s on my side.” (AP)

…What Blatt said. AK wasn’t even touching the ball much, but he was super active running around and making things happen–blocks, steals, deflections, offensive rebounds…I’ve never seen him boarding the way he did in this game.

After collecting 2 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 1 block in 7 minutes, AK got called for his second foul with three minutes remaining in the first period. He came back into the game with 4 minutes to go in the half, but got called for his third foul with 52 seconds left (disqualification after five fouls in Eurobasket). This is probably only the second game where he had been in even a hint of foul trouble, and as a result Blatt didn’t start him in the second half.

Russia opened the second quarter with a 10-3 run on 4 buckets by 4 players. Alexey Shved scored one of them and assisted on both 3s. Victor Khryapa also scored 11 points (more than his per-game average) in the second quarter, while Russia contained Serbia’s leading scorer, chairthrower extraordinaire Nenad Krstic, to 2 points in the first half.

AK came back in with 6:40 to go in the third, and stayed on the floor until the final horn sounded…and what a 4th quarter he had. 10 points (8-9 FTs), 3 boards, 3 steals, and drew 4 fouls in the quarter alone. The first three times he scored in the quarter, he got a steal on the other end. His two dagger FTs with 52 seconds left put Russia up 7 and basically put the game out of reach for Serbia, and the unbelievable Sergei Monia followed that up with a final-nail-in-the-coffin trey. Final score: Russia 77, Serbia 67.

Random Trivia: Serbia’s coach, Dusan Ivkovic, is considered one of the greatest coaches in European history and has been the pro coach of at least four members of the Russian national team at CSKA/Dynamo Moscow. Monia played for him for four years and Khryapa three at CSKA Moscow.

Russia was again putrid at the line: 8-15. AK was 8-9 (so yeah, he was the only Russian player to make any FTs). Andrei is just at his best when he’s not forcing up shots or under pressure to score: 14 points on 6 shots (team-high), 11 rebounds (6 offensive; team-high), 6 assists (team-high), 4 steals (team-high), and 2 blocks in 27 minutes.

Double AK on the floor:

Incidentally, I love watching David Blatt coach. I love his intensity. I love how he is supposed to be perfectly nice off the court, but is always pissed and yelling on the sidelines…how he preaches defense, how he’s direct and gives straight answers, and how he insists on always doing things the right way (like in Russia’s first Round 2 game against Finland when the game crew kept screwing up the national anthems. He was the one out there insisting that they get it right and also the one reminding them about holding a moment of silence for the hockey players that died in the plane crash).

So yes, I have a “type”…of coach, that is.

People are always wondering whether he’ll make the leap to the NBA, and my appreciation for him only grew when I heard him talking about coaching in the NBA:

In the NBA, it’s not what you’re saying, it’s who’s saying it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I think the reality is that in many cases, and not in all cases, you have to have a certain background and a certain understanding of the NBA way before you’re going to get the credibility that a European coach can get simply by his basketball. (FIBA TV)

Yup, that sums up pretty tidily the league where a self-satisfied ass who refers to himself as the “Zen Master” is widely respected and where Mark Jackson can get a job.

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