Spain will play in Sunday's EuroBasket 2015 title game after beating France 80-75 in an overtime thriller. Hours before the first semifinal, the first consolation games took place. Greece bested Latvia 97-90 and Italy topped the Czech Republic 70-85 to clinch spots in next summer’s pre-Olympics qualifying tournaments.
Spain 80-75 France
Spain will play for its third EuroBasket crown in four tournaments after ousting France 80-75 in an overtime thriller Thursday in Lille, France. Pau Gasol turned in a masterful performance with 40 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks to carry Spain, which will face the winner of Friday’s semifinal between Lithuania and Serbia on Sunday for the crown. The victory also assured Spain a spot in the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. Real Madrid guard and former Euroleague MVP Sergio Rodriguez added 15 points for the Spanish side. CSKA Moscow’s All-Euroleague guard Nando De Colo and Nicolas Batum paced France with 14 points apiece and Joffrey Lauvergne scored 11 in defeat.
De Colo was on fire early with 7 points in the first five minutes and a Batum slam made it 6-13. Gasol willed Spain back into the game and the difference stood at 17-20 after 10 minutes. France remained in front for much of the second quarter, but Real Madrid star Rudy Fernandez hit 2 free throws before draining a go-ahead three-pointer in a 7-0 run for a 32-31 Spanish edge. Rudy Gobert restored a 32-33 French lead at the break. Sergio Llull of Real Madrid tied it 39-39 four minutes into the second half, but France took charge with a 1-12 run and led 48-56 at the end of the third quarter. Spain never let up; Gasol scored 6 points and blocked a shot in an 8-0 run that gave Spain a 62-61 advantage with 2:31 to play. The game went down to the wire; after a Gasol offensive rebound and a layup by Rodriguez gave Spain a 3-point cushion with 16.6 seconds left. After a timeout, Batum tied it at 66-66 with a three-pointer and Rudy Gobert blocked Gasol on Spain’s final possession to force overtime. The teams traded baskets through the first few minutes of the extra session. A Boris Diaw free throw put France up 72-75 with 1:27 on the clock. Spain was back on top when Llull fed Gasol for a fast break slam with 50 seconds to go and after Fernandez blocked a Tony Parker shot, a Gasol put-back made it 78-75 with 18 seconds left. France took a timeout and Batum drew a foul shooting a three. But he missed all 3 shots and Spain raced to the other end where Gasol sealed the win with a slam.
Greece 97-90 Latvia
Greece came from behind to beat Latvia 97-90 in the first of the classification games and clinch a ticket to one of next summer’s pre-Olympics qualifying tournaments. Greece leaves France tied for fifth place with Italy. Latvia will play the Czech Republic on Friday for a second chance at a ticket to pre-Olympics qualifying. Ioannis Bourousis, fresh of a 2015 Turkish Airlines Euroleague crown with Real Madrid, scored 20 points for Greece, while former Euroleague MVP Vassilis Spanoulis of Olympiacos Piraeus added 16 points, Panathinaikos Athens guard Nick Calathes and Giannis Antetokounmpo netted 15 apiece and Brose Baskets Bamberg playmaker Nikos Zisis scored 12. Kristaps Janicenoks paced Latvia with 22 points, Dairis Bertans of Dominion Bilbao Basket and Mareks Mejeris each added 14 points.
Latvia dominated early in using a 0-12 run in which Janicenoks buried a pair of threes to race to a 5-16 lead. It was 17-24 after 10 minutes before Greece made its move; Zisis scored 4 points and dished a pair of assists to lead a 13-1charge that gave Greece a promising 37-28 cushion. However Latvia held Greece scoreless for the remaining three and a half minutes of the half and the first two and a half minutes of the third quarter. In that time, Latvia reeled off 24 unanswered points for a commanding 37-52 lead. Just like earlier in the game, Greece responded with another rally. Kostas Koufos scored 5 points and Calathes recorded 3 assists as part of a 15-1 charge to get Greece within 3. Spanoulis’s free throw made it 60-61 at the end of the third quarter and he followed that with a basket-plus-foul on the first play of the fourth. Triples by Spanoulis and Calathes boosted the difference to 73-67. Bourousis and Antetokounmpo took the difference to 11 with two minutes to go and Greece coasted the rest of the way.
Czech Republic 70-85 Italy
Italy dominated the third quarter for a 70-85 victory over the Czech Republic in the consolation games. The result placed Italy into a tie for fifth place at EuroBasket and a ticket to the pre-Olympic qualifying tournaments next summer. Andrea Bargnani starred for Italy with 21 points and Alessandro Gentile of EA7 Emporio Armani Milan and Danilo Gallinari added 15 points apiece. Fenerbahce Istanbul forward Jan Vesely led the Czech squad with 26 points plus 12 rebounds and FC Barcelona Lassa point guard Tomas Satoransky tallied 12 points and 6 assists in defeat.
Little separated the two teams through the first half, which ended with Italy ahead 37-42 after baskets from Belinelli and Gallinari in the final minute of the second quarter. Italy fully took charge in the third quarter; Bargnani hit half of his team’s 6 triples in the period en route to 13 individual points as his team outscored the Czechs 17-32 to amass a 54-74 advantage. The difference reached 22 before Vojtech Hruban netted 5 points in a 9-0 run to give the Czechs hope. However a 13-point margin was as close it would get as Brose Baskets Bamberg forward Nicolo Melli’s basket help wrap up the victory.