First time still a charm despite defeat

LONDON – Hosts Great Britain didn’t clear their first hurdle at the Olympic Games when falling to Russia on Sunday but the defeat won’t spoil the memory of playing at an Olympics in front of the home fans for the first time.

The Brits played hard for 40 minutes but lost to one of the best teams in international basketball,  95-75, with Andrei Kirilenko scoring 35 points and Alexey Shved adding 16.

Shved, who with Kirilenko will play for the Minnesota Timberwolves next season in the NBA, also handed out 13 assists.

British forward Joel Freeland said: “It was amazing, amazing. Obviously we would have liked to have had a better result, but the feeling was incredible to have our fans behind us the whole time.

“Whether we were up, or we were down, they were behind us the whole time and helping us out.”

Freeland is moving to the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers next season after spending several seasons in Spain’s top flight.

His Britain teammate, Roberto Archibald, has also played in front of big crowds in Spain.

He was moved by the support that Britain received tonight in the Olympic Basketball Arena.

“It was special,” Archibald said.

“We’ve never had this in the UK, a crowd this side that’s behind the team. It’s great. It was a special experience but it’s tough because right now, we’re focused on getting wins and trying to achieve that goal and get to the next round.”

Great Britain’s most famous player, NBA All-Star Luol Deng of the Chicago Bulls, led the team with 26 points.

“It was great,” Deng said of playing in the Olympics at home.

“But we kind of got it out of the way when we walked out into the Stadium with the whole GB team (during the Opening Ceremony).

“We were very lucky to get the chance to do so.

“But that’s behind us.

“We’re trying to get that first win.”

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