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Timofey Mozgov goes for 14 and 10 but Gasols dominate bronze medal game


Truth be told, few Russian fans expected this year’s national team to be as good as they showed in FIBA Eurobasket.

Russian basketball has been on the decline for the last several years. Injuries hurt, age hurt, and basketball wasn’t even a top-five sport in recent polls.

Then, the federation hired the right guy, Andrei Kirilenko, to run things. He made some important changes and his very presence raised the profile of the sport, got players to buy in. Luck helped too. Only one player, ex-Net Sergei Karasev, couldn’t play because of injury.

Russia surprised in the tournament, getting to the Final Four, a big stepping stone in its renewal. So, Sunday’s loss in the bronze medal game to perennial power Spain may have stung, but overall, the last two weeks were seen as a positive.

In Sunday’s game, Russia fought hard, led by Alexey Shved and the Nets Timofey Mozgov, who finished with 14 points and 10 boards.

Spain was up 18 points (51 – 33 with three minutes left in the third), but Russia got within three late before Spain, led by the Gasol brothers, put it away and won 93 – 85. It was the ninth time in the last 10 continental tournaments that Spain has medaled.

Mozgov had a solid game, with his 14 points coming on only eight shots. He also grabbed 10 boards, tied for the game-lead with Pau Gasol. After the game, Andrey Kartashov of TASS asked Gasol about Mozgov.

“He always plays hard,” Gasol said. “He’s always tough to play against.”

The Russians had no real answer for Pau and Marc Gasol, who finished with a combined 51 points and 14 rebounds.

Still, for Mozgov, like Russia, Eurobasket was a chance to renew his game, his reputation. His one season in L.A. was defined not by his play, but by his $64 million contract. To make matters worse, the Lakers didn’t play him late in the season, wanting to give Ivica Zubac, their young 7-footer, a chance to develop... and to ensure they had a top three pick in the Draft.

Mozgov finished Eurobasket with some nice numbers. He averaged 13.3 points on 7.6 shots per game, hit 57.4 percent of his shots, and grabbed 7.4 rebounds, all in 25 minutes a game. There were negatives: too many personal fouls, no passing. He averaged 3.1 personals ... or 4.4 fouls 36 minutes ... and he had NO assists in 226 minutes. Both those aspects of the game have been a problem for him his entire career.

Trajan Langdon, the Nets assistant GM, was on hand for the tournament and you can expect Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson to be asked their assessment of his performance on Tuesday when they meet the media.

Slovenia, the big surprise in the tournament, won the gold, beating Serbia, led by the Heat’s Goran Dragic and Luka Doncic, the 18-year-old who some compare to Drazen Petrovic in terms of his star power.