France and Spain play for trip to Rio

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The two biggest games of the summer take place Thursday and Friday in Lille, France. And two more Olympic bids will be handed out to the winners of the Eurobasket semifinals.

On Thursday (3 p.m. ET, NBA TV), France and Spain will meet for the ninth time in the last seven years. These are two of the four best national teams in the world, but only one of them will have a ticket to Rio going into next summer.

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Though Tony Parker hasn’t been playing great, France (7-0) has been the better team at Eurobasket thus far, with the tournament’s No. 1 defense by a pretty wide margin. Spain (5-2), playing without Ricky Rubio, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka this year, has struggled to get stops and dropped two of its first three games.

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But Pau Gasol (23.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 59 percent shooting) has been the best player of the tournament and the Spanish had enough to knock off previously unbeaten Greece in the quarterfinals on Tuesday. They’re certainly familiar with this French team and will be looking for revenge. It was France that pulled off the upset in Madrid in last year’s World Cup quarterfinals, thwarting Spain’s dream of winning a gold medal on its home soil.

France-Spain, recent history

  • 2014 World Cup: France beat Spain in the quarterfinals.
  • 2014 World Cup:  Spain beat France in pool play.
  • 2013 Eurobasket: France beat Spain in the semifinals.
  • 2012 Olympics: Spain beat France in in the quarterfinals.
  • 2011 Eurobasket: Spain beat France in the final.
  • 2011 Eurobasket: Spain beat France in the pool play.
  • 2010 World Championship: France beat Spain in pool play.
  • 2009 Eurobasket: Spain beat France in in the quarterfinals.
  • Spain is 5-3 vs. France over the last seven years

Serbia (7-0), who knocked off France in last year’s World Cup semifinals, has been the best team at Eurobasket and will be the favorite in Friday’s semifinal (3 p.m. ET, NBA TV) against Lithuania (6-1).

The losers of the two semifinal games will still have a shot at the Olympics and will likely be the favorites in two of the three qualifying tournaments next summer. The teams that finish fifth, sixth and seventh will join them there.

Before the France-Spain semifinal on Thursday, Greece plays Latvia and the Czech Republic plays Italy. The two winners of those games will finish fifth and sixth. The losers will play for seventh place on Friday.

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