Game Notes: Russia vs FYR of Macedonia
AK47 learns from the opponent.
by John Hobbs / @johnswisshobbs
On August 20, 2010, FYR of Macedonia lost to Hungary in the qualifying round of EuroBasket 2011.
In just over a year, they came within a whisker of landing themselves on the podium for bronze.
Not bad, eh?
Russia was one of the teams expected to reach the final stages of EuroBasket 2011. They had automatically qualified thanks to participating in the World Championships in Turkey last year.
Russia defeated the Macedonians 72-68 in Kaunas, Lithuania in the 3rd/4th place game. Yet, Andrei Kirilenko said afterwards that he and his side had learned a lot from them in the end. And who knows, these two teams might meet again in the Olympic Qualifying Round, with Kaunas one of the front-runners as hosts for that.
“Macedonia gave us a great example of how to fight. They won lots of games and we learned a lot from them,” Kirilenko said afterwards.
Russia earned their bronze medal, though; they out-played their opponents when it mattered and they came away with the win. There were two major turning points in the match that will be spoken about. It was a spirited Macedonian performance, but in the end, Russia had enough in the tank to get the job done.
Damdan Stojanovski, who had a great tournament, blew an open lay-up with seconds remaining, as the ball slipped out his hands at a crucial moment.
That was one of the turning points, and the one that will mostly be talked about. It was what cost Macedonians the bronze medal. Harsh, yes. But true.
Another turning point was when Macedonia had gone up 55-52. Russia’s coach David Blatt called a timeout to settle his troops down.
It turned out to be a deciding factor.
Kirilenko stepped up. The Utah Jazz forward buried back-to-back triples to knock the wind out of their opponents and put the Russians back in the driving seat. He was their game-winner.
FYR of Macedonia might have been defeated, but they have done their country proud. They have achieved more than they could have dreamed of.
“Today we came very close to our dream,” Macedonian coach Dokuzovski said afterwards. “We dreamed about it during the whole tournament. Besides our hope and the fact that we wanted it so badly.”