People will remember Russia’s victory in the bronze medal game as one mired by poor officiating. Pablo Prigioni was the victim of a no-call that would have gave Argentina an excellent opportunity to tie the game in the final seconds.
They were in the midst of a timely rally; Andres Nocioni missed an opportunity to reclaim Russia’s two-point lead on the previous possession. The blown call ostensibly signaled the end of the Argentinians, who finished fourth in London.
Argentina failed. Manu Ginobili failed. He didn’t fail because of lack of effort. He failed because he didn’t muster the precise amount of gumption and wherewithal to defeat the stingy Russians. As it turns out, Ginobili needed 26 points and not the 21 he totaled in the loss.
A fourth place finish, in retrospect, isn’t ideal. But Ginobili admits that his team should not have been in a position to rely on the inconsistent referees to fortify their medal chances. He maintains that Argentina, warts and all, can play much better than they showed today.
“We should not have arrived to that spot,” Ginobili said. “If you play against the States and you lose because they make 20 threes and you can’t stop them, fine. But I truly believe we are better than what we showed today. And losing a medal because of that hurts.”
The finality of the loss, in the end, hurts just as much as the pain stemming from the officiating. While the officials called 19 personal fouls on Argentina compared to 13 for Russia, Ginobili says it’s just part of the game. The officiating, as egregious as it may seem, usually balances itself out.
“You know how many times that happens?” Ginobili said. “It’s part of the game. Before that, I fouled (Vitaliy) Fridzon on a 3-point shot, and they didn’t call it. And we were not complaining about that one. So it goes both ways.”
The loss not only signaled the end of a team but the end of an era. It also means Ginobili didn’t add to his decorated international resume, which includes a Eurobasket championship and a gold medal, as he will likely not play in the 2016 Games.
He will be 39 years old then. Ginobili expounded upon his feelings immediately after the loss, finding three words to describe his emotion.
“Deep wound … won’t be able to sleep … bitter taste.”
If only the ball had bounced his way.