"The coach told me if I was open, shoot it. So I shot it," Vitaliy Fridzon said. And he made it.
Fridzon's 3-pointer with four seconds left gave Russia a 75-74 victory over Brazil on Thursday in the best game of the Olympic men's basketball tournament so far.
The Russians blew an 11-point lead and Marcelo Huertas looked like he would be the hero after his driving layup put Brazil up 74-72 with 6.1 seconds left. But Russia called timeout and threw the ball along the left corner to Fridzon, who knocked down the jumper while appearing to have his leg hit as he was shooting.
"It was an excellent shot," Russia guard Alexey Shved said. "Maybe it was a foul, but the referee didn't call it. He is the best shooter on our team."
The Russians apparently had never run the play that led to the game-winner on just the third shot of the game for Fridzon.
"I went with the best option I thought we had," said David Blatt, Russia's American-born coach. "He made the shot. Good for him. He made his coach look good."
Andrei Kirilenko scored 19 points and Timofey Mozgov had 18 for Russia (3-0), but it was Shved who led the Russians' late rally after they fell behind by five with under two minutes left. Shved, headed to the Minnesota Timberwolves along with Kirilenko, finished with 17 points.
Russia will play Spain on Saturday in a game that could determine the No. 1 seed from Group B. The winner would be able to avoid the United States — assuming the Americans win Group A — until the gold-medal game.
Leandro Barbosa scored 16 points and American-born Larry Taylor had 12 for Brazil (2-1). Nene finished with eight points and 10 rebounds.
More than 30 minutes after the game, Brazil centre Anderson Varejao was still replaying Fridzon's shot.
"That's tough, man," Varejao said. "We had one foul (to give), but we knew what they were going to do. We played them well, he just made a tough shot. We felt like we had control of the game in the final minutes. It's tough. Really tough."
Kirilenko, who came in leading the Olympics in scoring with 25.5 points per game on a tournament-best 72.4 per cent shooting, had only five points after halftime, part of the reason Russia blew its second-half lead and nearly the game.
Trailing by 11 late in the third quarter, Brazil battled back to tie it at 63 midway through the fourth on Barbosa's basket. Mozgov's follow shot put Russia back on top, but three straight free throws, the last two by Nene, gave the Brazilians a 66-65 edge with 3:40 to play. Taylor and Barbosa followed with baskets in the lane, extending the lead to 70-65 with 2:25 remaining.
It was still a five-point game before Shved knocked down a jumper, and after he missed two free throws, Russia got the ball back after a turnover and he nailed a 3-pointer that tied it at 72 with 26 seconds left.
Huertas drove left and scooped in a right-handed layup, but that left just enough time for Russia to pull it out. Barbosa missed from about halfcourt as time expired.
Kirilenko, the longtime Utah Jazz forward who stayed in Russia with CSKA Moscow last season and was MVP of the Euroleague, took only two shots in a scoreless first quarter, which ended with Brazil leading 20-15. The versatile forward quickly took control in the second.
He opened the period with a three-point play, then later ran off six straight points to begin a 10-0 run that he capped with two free throws for a 30-23 Russia lead. Brazil got back with one before the Russians closed the half with seven in a row, taking a 40-32 lead to the locker room after Kirilenko tipped in a miss with 27 seconds remaining.
Mozgov, a centre for the Denver Nuggets, took over in the third, showing off some good footwork and touch on his way to eight points. Brazil finally brought its biggest body, Washington Wizards centre Nene, back in with 1:45 left in the quarter, but by then Mozgov had overwhelmed its front line.
Russia twice had the lead up to 11 points in the period, the last time at 59-48 with 1:06 left, but Barbosa scored the final five points of the period to bring Brazil within six.