Spain, France Set To Battle In EuroBasket Finals

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The stage is set. Spain and France will battle it out for the crown of the best team in Europe at EuroBasket 2011, their invitations to next summer’s Olympic games in London are set now.

How’d they get here?

That’s what we (my main man and NBA.com‘s John Schuhmann kicks things off today) are here for …

Spain 92, FYR Macedonia 80 (Boxscore)

From the start of this tournament, we all expected Spain to make the final and earn one of Europe’s two guaranteed spots in next year’s Olympics. But none of us expected FYR Macedonia to be the last team standing between the defending European champs and that Olympic berth.

Getting through this semifinal was no walk in the park for Spain. The defending champs didn’t take control of the game until late in the third quarter when Juan Carlos Navarro caught fire. Navarro scored 19 of his 35 points in the third, at one point hitting a ridiculous running three at the shot clock buzzer, to give Spain a nine-point edge heading into the fourth.

The Macedonia offense, which had struggled all tournament but scored 45 points in the first half, couldn’t keep up with Navarro’s onslaught. And with the Gasol brothers almost outrebounding Macedonia by themselves, Spain was just too much for the underdogs.

FYR Macedonia can still earn a spot in the Olympics by finishing in the top three of next summer’s last-chance qualifying tournament. Spain will certainly be a favorite to medal at the Olympics and will likely be the USA’s toughest challenger in London.

  • Pau Gasol finished with 22 points and 17 rebounds (nine offensive), but he still doesn’t seem to have much of a rhythm offensively. He made just one of his first six shots and finished 8-for-20 from the field, unable to hit anything outside of five feet. He’s 16-for-43 (37 percent) over the last three games.
  • Early on, Marc Gasol looked to be on his way to a triple-double, recording five points, five rebounds and four assists in the first quarter. Two of the dimes were beautiful block-to-block feeds to Serge Ibaka. The younger Gasol finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, but was just 4-for-12 from the field.
  • Ibaka entered the game when Pau Gasol picked up two fouls in the first 4:17. Air Congo gave Spain quite a bit of energy on both ends of the floor, scoring 11 points, grabbing four rebounds and altering a few shots in 17 minutes.
  • Ricky Rubio actually hit two jump shots, one three (his first of the tourney after 12 straight misses) and one long two. In 22 minutes, Rubio scored five points, grabbed seven boards, and dished out four assists.
  • Bo McCalebb was able to get into the paint to the tune of 25 points (on 11-for-19 from the field) and five assists. Overall, it was FYR Macedonia’s best offensive game of the tournament, but Spain’s size and Navarro’s shooting did them in.

France 79, Russia 71 (Box Score)

With Tony Parker (22 points) controlling the action on the perimeter, Nicolas Batum inside and out and Joakim Noah down low, France proved to be too much for previously unbeaten Russia to handle in this semifinal showdown. France moves on to the finals for the first time in decades, claiming the other automatic entry into next summer’s Olympics while Russia has to settle for fighting it out for a top three spot in the qualifying tournament next July to firm up their invite to the games. They’ll battle it out with Macedonia in the bronze medal game of this competition.

Batum must have heard about us praising Andrei Kirilenko as the most versatile player in this tournament, because the Portland Trail Blazers swingman showed off all facets of his game against Russia. He finished with 19 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks and made play after play exactly when France needed someone to step up.

“We’ve been a great team throughout the tournament and our disappointment came at the wrong time, it’s that simple,” said Russia’s coach David Blatt. “The guy that really hurt us was Nicolas Batum. Batum made big plays at crucial times.”

Noah’s work on the boards (he finished with a game-high eight) helped France to its biggest and arguably its most important advantage of the game. A 35-21 rebounding advantage coupled with 58 percent (7-for-12) shooting display from beyond the 3-point line forced Russia’s usually rock-solid defense to pick a poison in this contest.

“We are very happy to have qualified to the Olympics in London. It was our goal,” said France’s coach Vincent Collet. “We are also delighted that for the second time in our history we will be playing in the EuroBasket final, the first time since 1949. We played the best game of our tournament tonight. All of the strong points of the Russian team we were able to control, especially the rebounds. We did an excellent job on offensive rebounds. Nicolas Batum was very important in that. Everybody gave everything to get those rebounds and I think that is the main reason why we won.”

*** Greece defeated Serbia in the early game Friday and will take on Lithuania in the fifth-place game. ***

Field for 2012 Olympics
Team How
United States 2010 World Champion
Great Britain Host
Tunisia FIBA Africa Champion
Australia FIBA Oceania Champion
Argentina FIBA Americas Champion
Brazil FIBA Americas 2nd place
Spain Eurobasket finalist
France Eurobasket finalist
Team 9 FIBA Asia Champion
Team 10 2012 Qualifier
Team 11 2012 Qualifier
Team 12 2012 Qualifier
Field for 2012 Olympic Qualifying Tournament
Team How
Angola FIBA Africa 2nd place
Nigeria FIBA Africa 3rd place
New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
Dominican Republic FIBA Americas 3rd place
Puerto Rico FIBA Americas 4th place
Venezuela FIBA Americas 5th place
FYR Macedonia Eurobasket 3rd-4th place
Russia Eurobasket 3rd-4th place
Greece Eurobasket 5th-6th place
Lithuania Eurobasket 5th-6th place
Team 11 FIBA Asia 2nd place
Team 12 FIBA Asia 3rd place

5 Comments

  1. haine says:

    France has been always good , and USA the best:)

  2. MACEDONIA says:

    It’s Republic of Macedonia NOT FYR of Macedonia!!
    DON’T FYROM ME CALL ME BY MY NAME REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA!!!
    Macedonia will take the 3-th place i think it will be our ravenge for the loss fron Russia in the last second in the second phase :))

  3. NA-VA-RRO says:

    Wonderful game between spain and fyr macedonia, navarro is the best clutch shooter and the best 2 in europe of all time with drazen petrovic. The nba lost a great player, i remember the game vs new orleans and the 30+ points vs the lakers with barcelona in los angeles. Thank you Spain for such great moments

  4. Turiaf says:

    Go France! Parker-Batum-Gelabale-Diaw-Noah will sweep spanish girls. Wish Turiaf, Beaubois and Mickael Pietrus were healthy. That would be a Dream Team. Watch out for a small guy Albicy, he´s the new Parker.

  5. jj says:

    FRAAAAAAAANNNNNNCEEEEEE! AT LEAST WE HAVE SOME GOOD BASKETBALL TO WATCH WHILE THE SPOILED NBA ACTORS ARE UNABLE TO SHARE BILLIONS