Big congratulations this morning go out from BallinEurope to Team Spain, which defended its European title in besting France in the 2011 FIBA EuroBasket championship game, 98-85.
Particularly brilliant in this final match was Serge Ibaka, who provided five blocks and smothering defense off the bench. Five Spaniards scored in double figures, with tournament MVP Juan Carlos Navarro following up his 35-point barrage against FYR Macedonia with 27, including 12-of-12 from the free throw line, against the French. Pau Gasol put in 17 points to go with 10 rebounds and Jose Calderon also added 17 for the victors.
High scorer for Team France was Tony Parker, with 26 points on 9-of-20 shooting. Nicolas Batum, who many saw as key to Les Bleus’ success in the game, managed just 10 points including a 2-of-8 performance from three-point land. Boris Diaw contributed 12 to go with seven assists.
With the victory, Spain becomes the first team since Yugoslavia of 1997 to repeat as European champions and only the second back-to-back title winner in the post-Soviet era.
Named to the all-tournament team along with Navarro were Parker, Pau Gasol, Bo McCalebb of FYR Macedonia, and Andrei Kirilenko of Russia.
In the bronze-medal game, Russia held off those lovable dark horses of FYR Macedonia, 72-68. These two teams will join Lithuania and Greece in the Olympic qualifying tournament next year, while Spain and France have sealed their bids for the 2012 Games.
The official FIBA writeup follows the break; and if you’ll excuse BiE, a bit of a break may be in order…
(FIBA Europe) – Spain successfully defended their EuroBasket title with another powerful and memorable display in the Final against France.
Having been dominant two years ago in Katowice against Serbia, Sergio Scariolo and his players cruised to the top of the podium once more to deny France an historic first title. Spain simply had too much offensively for France and once they moved 13 points in front early in the third quarter, they never seriously looked like relinquishing their title as they rode out comfortable 98-85 winners.
The opening quarter started at a frantic pace, with Joakim Noah not wasting any time in trying to send out an early message as he threw down two dunks to put France ahead, 8-7.
Spain then began to make some shots with Jose Calderon scoring five quick-fire points and when the lead was extended to 17-12, France coach Vincent Collet called timeout. The teams then indulged in a real shootout as it started raining three-balls with four in succession, and Spain protected their advantage at 25-20 at the end of the opening quarter.
They then streaked nine points ahead and briefly threatened to make a potentially decisive break as they gave France a big test of their title credentials.
Back-to-back threes by Mickael Gelabale and the ever-dangerous Tony Parker limited the damage but the respite was only temporary.
Serge Ibaka was thrilling fans with his defensive plays and with two monstrous blocks already to his name, and a third rejection paved the way for Pau Gasol to dunk his team to their first double-figure lead at 36-26. Straight out of a subsequent timeout, France were repelled by Ibaka twice more as he took his tally of blocked shots to five and Les Bleus were most definitely on the ropes, although certainly not on the canvas.
Well, except for Parker, who was unceremoniously and quite literally pulled down to the floor by Rudy Fernandez. Fernandez was called for an unsportsmanlike foul and for a moment things threatened to get ugly as Spain fumbled for the self-destruct button.
The antics of Fernandez unsettled the rhythm of his team and fired up France, who posted a 7-0 run with Nicolas Batum making a shot from downtown and then throwing down an explosive dunk to make it a five-point game. But Spain managed to regain their composure and as both teams made their way to the locker rooms, they were 50-41 ahead.
The contest was still very much peppered with bad-tempered flashpoints after the interval, but there was little change in the score line as Pau Gasol flushed a dunk to keep his team out comfortably in front at 60-49.
France then rallied with five points in a hurry but, once again, Juan Carlos Navarro continued to maintain his team’s cushion with some big shots.
When Spain started the final quarter with a flourish, a fairy-tale finish for France never looked like materialising. As the minutes ticked down, the Spanish players reveled in their dominance and started the fiesta early, entertaining the huge crowd with some party basketball as they cruised to gold.