Euro final set: France vs. Lithuania
France ended Spain’s reign as European basketball champion Friday with a 75-72 overtime victory behind 32 points from Tony Parker and set up a final against Lithuania.
Two-time defending champion Spain led by 14 points at halftime, but Parker led France’s comeback after the break. His 3-pointer with 2 minutes left gave France its first lead of the second half at 64-63.
"We wanted to be aggressive, but until halftime we weren’t really playing," France coach Vincent Collet said. "We talked about it during the break and we came back very different. They couldn’t score for five minutes in the third and even when they started hitting shots again, our spirit stayed the same."
Parker had a chance to put France ahead in regulation with the score tied at 65-65, but his drive to the basket was blocked by Rudy Fernandez with 11 seconds left. Jose Calderon then missed a 3-point attempt at the other end.
In overtime, Parker and Antoine Diot scored France’s last eight points from the free-throw line to keep their team in front. Marc Gasol missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer after Rodriguez had missed a previous attempt to tie it.
"We had the last shots in both regulation and overtime, but we missed," Spain coach Juan Orenga said.
Diot was the only other French player in double figures with 10 points, while Gasol led Spain with 19 points and nine rebounds and Fernandez scored 17. Point guard Ricky Rubio was limited to two points, one assist and four turnovers.
Spain beat France to win the title two years ago, but this time it was missing Pau Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro. Spain will play Croatia for the bronze.
Parker finished with five turnovers and only one assist, along with six rebounds.
Lithuania reached its first final since winning the title 10 years ago by beating Croatia 77-62. It’s aiming for its fourth championship.
Jonas Maciulis led Lithuania with 23 points, Linas Kleiza added 22 and Mantas Kalnietis had 18. Lithuania center Jonas Valanciunas provided some big defensive plays with five blocks, while Bojan Bogdanovic led Croatia with 15 points.
"It was a difficult game mentally because we knew how important it was," Maciulis said. "Both teams came out shot-shy and we were the first to take the lead."
Lithuania won the European title in 2003 and was bronze medalist at the 2010 worlds. It hasn’t’ made the podium in Europe since taking bronze in 2007.
"It was an important win for our generation, to show that we can play well and win a medal. We are trying to prove to people who thought we were not a good team that we can win," Maciulis said.