LONDON (Olympics) - Russia stayed on a roll this summer with a 95-75 triumph over hosts Great Britain on the opening night of the Olympics.
David Blatt’s team won all four of their outings at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT), so their victory over the Brits means they’re riding a five-game winning streak.
The coach spoke to FIBA.com about the value of getting that first win, being game ready and looking ahead to the game against China.
FIBA: How important was it to get off to a good start, especially after the experience in Beijing when Russia only won once in five games and fell short of the Quarter-Finals?
Blatt: Yes, that's a big pressure game, especially since you are playing against Great Britain. They're home and also, most of the surprises come early as opposed to late. Teams are still finding their game rhythm and they’re finding their way around this beautiful new arena. Is it new? I don't know. But it's beautiful. But think we're playing well.
FIBA: Andrei Kirilenko had 35 points and Alexey Shved 16 with 13 assists. It looks like Minnesota have a couple of good players joining their team.
Blatt: If I'm Minnesota, I've got a big, big smile on my face right now.
FIBA: While Russia led for virtually the entire game, you also had to maintain your concentration because Great Britain gave everything they had for 40 minutes. They were especially tough on the boards.
Blatt: They played extremely hard. I don't know how it finished, but they must have had 25, 28 offensive rebounds. To win a game by 20 points and give up that many offensive rebounds, you would be hard pressed to find that kind of stat anywhere. I've never heard or seen that. That shows they were really attacking the glass, really playing hard and using their size and their aggressiveness around the basket. Obviously if we want to win more games, we need to do a better job in that category. But we are a team that has played together for a long time. We sort of know how to work our way around game situations and particular weaknesses that we have on a given night because we do enough things well on the floor that we can find a way to win.
FIBA: Could fatigue become a factor for Russia after taking part in the OQT?
Blatt: I would hope not. I would hope that would be an advantage, that we are game ready. Certainly we are game ready. On the one hand, we had four critical games in the beginning of July and since July 7th or 8th, we've only played one game. So I was fearful, more so than the home crowd, of the game rhythm. If you play as much as we did day after day and suddenly you don't play at all, generally that first or second game back is very difficult and you saw in the first quarter that we struggled more than in the second, the third and the fourth.
FIBA: There is a sense of relief to start 1-0, though?
Blatt: I'm glad that we got that game under our belts because that game will help us come our game against China. Because we'll have our game feet and game shoes on.
FIBA: China weren’t pushovers at all against Spain, the number two team in the FIBA Rankings, and there are other really good teams. How does it look for Russia in the days ahead?
Blatt: This is a brutal group. I'd love to see Great Britain go out there and beat a couple of the other teams but Australia, Spain, Brazil and China - every one of those games is hard to win and I'm sure they're looking at us the same way. We're not an easy game for anybody.