Saturday, September 15, 2007

Kirilenko Propels Russia To Final

Euro '07 Semi: Russia 86, Lithuania 74

- Russia's cinderella run will continue. In this game, they knocked off arguably the most potent team in this Euro '07 not named Spain. Russia took control of the game early, and were able to hold off all of Lithuania's multiple runs in the 2nd half. Every time Lithuania made a push in the 2nd half, they were held at bay by Kirilenko's heroics. Though, I'm sure Lithuania would like a do-over on the semi but next time with the services of a healty Saras.

- Kirilenko did it all offensively: jumpers, turnaround jumpers, post-ups, & driving lay-ins. His key sequence of the 2nd half came in the 3rd quarter, after Lithuania made a run to tie the game at 52, and they seemed ready to take the momentum away from Russia. But AK47 single-handedly sparked a 8-0 run with a 3pt., then on the next offensive possession snaking his way to a falling down lay-in plus the foul. Then on the ensuing def. possession AK made a gigantic block on a Kleiza dunk attempt, which led into a JR Holden bucket to all-of-a-sudden make the game 60-52. Huge sequence for Russia. But that was not it for AK, he added some more big plays in the 4th when Lithuania made a few more mini-runs. Andrei ended the day with 29 pts on 10/14 (8/11 fts), 8 rebs (4 off), 3 stls, & 3 blks. Jeezum Frickin' Crow.

- Viktor Khyrapa continued his strong Euro '07 play, basically being a poor man's AK47 with great all-around play. Khyrapa's versatile defense has been huge all tourney, and he has been drilling his outside looks lately, going 3/5 from 3pt. today after a 4/4 3pt outing in the quarters. Vik's varied stat line for the day: 15 pts, 5 rebs, 4 assts, & 2 stls. JR Holden was also a key cog in the Russian attack once again, hitting some clutch shots himself in the 2nd half (7 pts in 4th) on his way to 18 & 6 rebs.

- The Russian defense had a big hand the victory, and they were very effective shutting down Lithuania inside the 3pt. line. Again they looked to be playing a lot of the hybrid-type of defense (Kirilenko and Khyrapa roaming everywhere) I mentioned before in the prelims--it's hard to exactly tell what Russia is in sometimes, and I'm sure it confuses their opponents. Kirilenko, Savrasenko, & Khyrapa protected the interior wonderfully & made the game rough for the Lithuanian bigs.

- As good as AK47 was for Russia, Ramunas Siskauskas was just as good for Lith. He was the one Lith. player answering AK's play with some unstoppable play of his own. Anyway you want it, Siskauksas was giving it today: 3pts, 3pts off-the-dribble, pull-up mid-rangers, drawing fouls as usual, & bullish drives. Siskauskas' line for the day--30 pts, 4 rebs, 4 assts, 5 stls, & 5/10 on 3pt. Jeezum Frickin' Crow as well.

- Don't want to make excuses for Lithuania, but Saras definitely was not himself today, and was obviously laboring from his re-aggravation of his leg injury a few games back. Saras forced up some real bad shots, and continued to have some issues with TOs (5). Only 3 assts, and did not have the same swerve to his game, which is always bad news for Lith.

- After Linas Kleiza & Darius Songaila combined powers to cause damage the night before, they found that working vs. the vaunted Russia interior defense was not so easy. The Lith forwards combined for only 13 pts on a combined 3/15 shooting. Rimas Kaukenas was the only other Lithuanian is double figures besides Siskauksas with 12 pts.

- Russia heads to the final to play heavy fave Spain. But Lithuania still has more to play for than just a bronze medal. With Spain in the finals, there is still one more Olympic bid up for grabs, and the bronze medal winner gets the spot. I think Lith is in a tough spot with having no days of rest to get Saras better. Though Greece has to be physically & emotionally spent from the last few days, I still have to give them the edge for the bronze strictly because Saras is laboring, and he's so vital to the Lith offense.

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