A magnificent performance by Pau Gasol (40 points and 11 rebounds) decided Spain’s 80-75 win against France in extra time and got them an entry to the EuroBasket 2015 finals and a direct ticket to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
With 16 seconds to go for the end of regulation time on Friday, Sergio Rodriguez scored to put Spain ahead at 66-63, but a triple by France’s Nikolas Batum equalized the score at 66, reports EFE.
Gasol emerged at extra time, scoring the last eight points that sealed Spain’s place in the finals and the Games.
Spain began with a strong defence but weak rebound and attack moves with Sergio Llull holding up great against the formidable Tony Parker of France.
Gasol kept the team in point, which was boosted by the entry of Rodriguez and got them another 5 points.
The Spanish plan was restricting crucial advantages to France, maintain their game throughout and allow the French to tire themselves out.
Parker worked on defence and Nando de Colo and Mickael Gelabale were the top French scorers with 7 points each.
At a point it seemed like the French were redeeming their game in rebounds.
A triple by Batum and a retort from Spain’s Nikola Mirotic opened the third quarter of the game.
France boosted its lead to 39-44 in the 26th minute, with a triple by Parker.
The advantage expanded to 40-51 with two triples by Joffrey Lauvergne.
Spain responded to the crisis well and managed to change the scores at 48-56 at the end of the third quarter.
With Pau Gasol as the sole reference in attack, Spain became somewhat predictable with lack of threats against a French team that had more points and a luck factor working in their favour on more than one occasion.
With ten minutes to go and a disadvantage of eight points, Spain fought to death a match where although the defence fulfilled its role, problems had persisted in its attack and the points followed bit by bit at 52-58.
Another triple by Colo increased French effectiveness from three to fifty percent and Spain’s dreams of a direct entry to the Olympics began to waver.
However, the Spanish team garnered a partial of 10-0 in four minutes rejuvenating them in the process.
The magical Gasol accompanied by Rodriguez took over again to put the scores at 66-63 with just 16.6 seconds to go but a triple by Batum closed the regulatory time at a tie (66-66).
The extra time that followed had everything: pressure, nerves, live-wire action by the Spanish team that re-surfaced with a galactic Pau Gasol.
Spain arrived with 18 seconds ahead and three point lead at 78-75.
Batum drew a foul and got three free throws, all of which he missed while Gasol finished the game with a move that opened the doors of history again.