France eliminated defending champion Spain and will try for their first European title on Sunday against Lithuania. The French, led by an outstanding performance by Tony Parker, squeaked past Spain 75-72 in overtime. Parker dominated the contest for France, scoring 32 points on 11-of-19 shooting, making his only two three-pointers and pulling down six rebounds.
Parker didn’t have much help. 6’4 Antoine Diot was the only other French player in double-figures with ten points. France advances despite off-games from Nicolas Batum (3 points) and Boris Diaw (8 points on 3-of-12 shooting). Spain was led by Marc Gasol’s 19 points and nine rebounds and 17 points from Rudy Fernandez. Sergio Rodriguez played an efficient game with 11 points, six rebounds, nine assists and only two turnovers. However, Rodriguez’s shooting tailed off (4-of-13) after his recent hot streak. That, combined with ineffective performances from Jose Calderon (4 points on 1-of-7 shooting) and Ricky Rubio (2 points, 4 turnovers in 15 minutes) were the deciding factors in the contest.
France came back from a 14-point halftime deficit as Diot made four three throws in the final 23 seconds to clinch the win. Rodriguez and Fernandez each hit three-pointers to put Spain up 58-51 with six minutes to play. But then France went on an 11-3 run led by three-pointers from Parker, Batum and Florent Pietrus to give them a 64-63 lead. Gasol scored to put Spain up by one and Alexis Ajinca went 1-of-2 from the foul line with 40 seconds left to tie the game at 65. Neither team scored in the balance of regulation. Fernandez blocked a Parker lay-up attempt with 12 seconds left and then Calderon missed an open three-point attempt from the corner and the game went into overtime.
In the overtime, France had a 71-67 lead when Rodriguez scored for Spain to cut the lead to two. They then came up with a steal off a Parker pass but Rodriguez missed a runner in the lane that would have tied it. Diot then knocked down two free-throws with 24 seconds left. Rodriguez came back and scored on a quick lay-in, was fouled and made he extra shot to cut the French lead to 73-72. Diot was fouled once more and again made both foul shots with 18 seconds left to make it 75-72. France played tough defense on the final possession and Gasol’s three-point attempt came up short. In the end, not having Pau Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Juan Carlos-Navarro and Felipe Reyes was too much for Spain to overcome.
Lithuania reached the finals for the first time since winning the title 10 years ago as they topped Croatia 77-62 in the first semi-final. 6’7 Jonas Maciulis led the winners with 23 points as he made 4-of-6 three-pointers. Linas Kleiza was solid with 22 points and 11 rebounds.
Kleiza scored 17 first-half points as Lithuania took a 44-37 halftime lead. They put the game away with a 21-8 third quarter. Bojan Bogdanovic led Croatia with 15 points as their eight-game winning streak was snapped.
Full game video replays of both semi-finals are available on LiveBasketball.tv.
6’5 point guard Mantas Kalnietis had another strong game for Lithuania, scoring 18 points to go along with four assists, three rebounds and only two turnovers. Kalnietis has been effective throughout the event, averaging 11.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists.
The championship game between France and Lithuania will take place at 9:00pm local time on Sunday. It will be preceded at 5:30pm with the third-place game between Spain and Croatia. Watch all the action on LiveBasketball.tv.
Thanks to FIBA Europe for the photos.