Russia is the EuroBasket 2007 champion! Russia won its first-ever EuroBasket title as an independent nation by edging Spain 59-60 in the title game in front of a sold-out crowd of 15,000 in Madrid on Sunday. CSKA Moscow star J.R. Holden became the hero by hitting the game-winning jumper with 2.3 seconds to go, giving Russia just its second lead of the game. Andrei Kirilenko led the winners with 17 points and was chosen as the EuroBasket MVP. Aleksey Savrasenko of CSKA added 10 points for Russia, which lifted its first EuroBasket trophy, although the Soviet Union won the competition some 14 times, last in 1985. Spain, which finished as the European runner-up for the sixth time, missed the chance to become the first host team to win the EuroBasket title since Germany in 1993. Jose Manuel Calderon had 15 points for Spain while Pau Gasol – whose potential game-winner at the buzzer went in and out – added 14. Calderon, Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki of Germany and Ramunas Siskauskas of Lithuania joined Kirilenko in the all-tournament team. It was just one of the most exciting finishes in European basketball history. Earlier in the day, Lithuania beat outgoing champion Greece 69-78 for the bronze medal and clinched a berth for the 2008 Olympic Games. Greece joins Germany, Croatia and Slovenia as the four European teams to take part in the World Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament next summer. Keep in mind that more than 120 of these players will take part in ULEB competitions this season, so be sure to keep following European basketball right here on Euroleague.net!
Rudy Fernandez of DKV Joventut opened the scoring with a three-pointer before Kirilenko got Russia going with a huge dunk. Spain shined in defense in the early going, not allowing Russia to take any easy shots. Meanwhile, Calderon hit twice from downtown during a 10-0 run, which gave Spain a double-digit lead, 15-4, midway through the opening period. Russia went scoreless for more than four minutes until Holden stepped up with a driving layup and Kirilenko dunked it for a 16-8 deficit. Marc Gasol of DKV Joventut made 5 of 6 free throws, while Carlos Cabezas of Unicaja beat the buzzer with an off-balance jumper for a 22-11 Spanish lead after 10 minutes. Jorge Garbajosa hit from downtown, but nobody else scored for Spain in the next four minutes. Meanwhile, Savrasenko followed free throws with a jumper, and by the time he added a jump hook, Russia was within 25-19. Calderon buried his third triple and Carlos Jimenez of Unicaja added another one from downtown to restore a double-digit Spanish lead at 31-21. Kirilenko shined with his fourth dunk and added free throws, but Pau Gasol fired in a triple to keep Spain far ahead, 34-25. But Anton Ponkrashov of Khimki hit a mid-range jumper and then followed Savrasenko's layup with free throws to bring Russia within 34-31 at halftime.
Spain regained its momentum soon after the break, as a put-back layup by Pau Gasol and another triple by Calderon made it 40-31. Ponkrashov fired one in from downtown, but once again Russia had trouble organizing its offense. Meanwhile, Pau Gasol made free throws as Russia entered the foul bonus with seven minutes to go in the third quarter. Viktor Khryapa shined with a reverse layup and Kirilenko nailed a huge triple, but Calderon answered to keep Spain ahead, 45-41. Garbajosa started the fourth quarter with a bomb from downtown, but a free throw by Ponkrashov tied it at 52-52. Points came the hard way now, but Pau Gasol stepped up with a put-back layup and soon added a free throw for a 55-52 Spanish edge with four minutes to go. Both teams exchange misses as the game turned into a physical battle. Kirilenko and Holden missed respective shots down the stretch. Meanwhile, Pau Gasol made 2 of 4 free throws and a fast break layup, good for a 59-54 Spanish lead with 1:40 remaining. Kirilenko made more foul shots and Nikita Morgunov of Triumph Lyubertsy banked in a short jumper to get Russia within 59-58 with 43.1 seconds to go. Holden collected a steal and hit the game-winner with 2.3 seconds to go, as the ball touched the rim, went up and fell down. Spain had time for a final shot, but Pau Gasol's final jumper went in and out. Russia escaped with an upset win in an incredibly thrilling game!