HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Eurobasket semifinal between France and Spain, with an Olympic bid on the line, lived up to the hype. Spain escaped with a 80-75, overtime victory to book its ticket to Rio, and France can only look back at a blown opportunity on its home floor.
France had been the better team all tournament and the better team through 34 minutes on Thursday. But it all came crashing down quickly.
The knockout round hosts led by nine with six minutes to go in regulation and by two late in overtime, but missed four free throws in the final 1:14 to blow their first chance at a trip to the Olympics.
In the fourth period, Pau Gasol led a 14-2 Spain run to turn that nine-point deficit into a three-point lead. France survived with a Nicolas Batum 3-pointer with 14 seconds left. But with a chance to tie the game with three free throws with 15 seconds left in overtime, Batum missed the all three (the third intentionally) and a Gasol dunk gave Spain its five-point win.
Gasol finished with 40 points and 11 rebounds, with Spain running most of its late-game offense through him in the low post against Rudy Gobert. Batum (3-for-14 shooting) and Nando De Colo (6-for-12) each had 14 points for Spain. Tony Parker had a big bucket in overtime, but shot 4-for-17.
Not only did Spain earn an Olympic bid, but they avenged last year’s loss in the World Cup quarterfinals on their home floor. Spain is now 6-3 against France in major tournaments over the last seven years.
With how it went down at last year’s World Cup and with two early losses in this tournament, Spain looked like it had lost its grip on its status as the best national team outside of the United Stats. But it will now play for its third Eurobasket championship in the last seven years.
Spain will play the winner of Friday’s semifinal, Lithuania vs. Serbia, in the gold medal game on Sunday. France moves on to the bronze medal game and will still have a chance to qualify for next year’s Olympics. As a 3-7 finisher at Eurobasket, they’ll be entered into one of next year’s qualifying tournaments.
Earlier on Thursday, Greece beat Latvia and Italy beat the Czech Republic to earn bids to the qualifying tournaments. Latvia and the Czech Republic will play for seventh place and Europe’s final automatic bid to the qualifying tournaments on Friday.