LONDON (AFP) –
Russia’s Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved, future NBA teammates for the Minnesota Timberwolves, powered a veteran Russian side over China 73-54 on Tuesday to stay unbeaten in Olympic round-robin play.
Kirilenko, a 2.06m centre, scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds while Shved, a 23-year-old point guard, added 14 points and six assists as Russia improved to 2-0 in Group B, having beaten Britain 95-75 on Sunday.
“I think we are in pretty good shape,” Kirilenko said. “We played well the past couple of months. We’ve got a lot of confidence and momentum but it’s not going to be easy.”
Kirilenko, 31, signed a two-year deal worth $20 million last week to play for the Timberwolves next season alongside Shved, a breakout talent whom Kirilenko played alongside last year at CSKA Moscow.
“I can’t tell you how he’s going to adjust to the NBA because it takes time,” Kirilenko said. “But as long as he puts himself into the work, he’s going to be great. He has got all the tools.
“We have been missing that position since 2008 and I think he fills that gap really nicely.”
Shved will be watching the US NBA stars to see what his ultimate role models look like.
“Everyone knows they are tough in the NBA. I will see how it is,” Shved said. “I will look at what I can do. We will see.”
Russian teammates have teased Shved since he signed the NBA deal — “every time they say something funny to me” — and as if on cue Russian coach David Blatt smiled and said, “Stop talking and start playing.”
Blatt has kept the Russians focused on the short term and not worried about medal contention until the opportunity presents itself.
“We’re relaxed in that regard,” Shved said. “But we want to strive more. We’re going for gold.”
His NBA days will start soon enough and even though Minnesota went 26-40 last season, there is new hope for a playoff run says Kirilenko.
“Minnesota is ready to take a step and make the playoffs,” Kirilenko said.
Kirilenko scored all but one one of his points in the first half to help Russia to a 40-25 half-time edge. The Russians stretched their lead to 61-39 after three quarters and cruised home from there, outrebounding China 46-29.
“We did a really good job going after the offensive boards,” Kirilenko said. “We did a pretty good rebounding and boxing out and converted right away in transition. We did a good job on rotation (of defensive coverages).”
The Russians are helped by having the core of their team having played together for a long time.
“The bonus for us is we already know what each guy is going to do,” said Kirilenko. “I hope it’s going to help us in the tougher games.”
Yi Jianlian of the NBA Dallas Mavericks led China with 16 points and seven rebounds but China made only 21-of-56 shots from the field, 38 percent.
“We shot a lot of bad shots, in the first half especially,” Yi said. “We need to change our strategies on defence. We didn’t prepare well for the physical contact. The Russians defended very well as we tried to attack.”
Even so, Kirilenko likes what he sees from China’s new playmaker in the wake of 2.29m centre Yao Ming’s retirement.
“During these years in the NBA he has really grown up,” Kirilenko said. “Since Yao left he’s the guy the whole country looks up to and he has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders.
“They are getting better and better and in a few years they are going to be among the elite teams.”