EuroBasket Final Preview
Spain and France meet for all the marbles.
by John Hobbs / @johnswisshobbs
It was certainly strange that Spain coach Sergio Scariolo had not mentioned Juan Carlos Navarro’s majestic 19-point third-quarter demolition of FYR of Macedonia, which booked Spain’s ticket to next year’s Olympic Games in London.
The Regal FC Barcelona man went on to record 35 points in a 92-80 win over the FYR of Macedonia, ending their fairytale run.
Instead he concentrated on the fantastic hospitality that everyone who has traveled to Lithuania has received. That, of course includes his Spain squad.
So I asked Scariolo what his thoughts were of Navarro‘s game-winning heroics.
What the Italian-born play caller said next made us believe that we were in a poetic recital and not a post-game press conference. I almost felt like asking the lighting staff to dim the setting as Scariolo was speaking.
“It was a masterpiece, like seeing a picture in the Louvre. Juan Carlos is definitely one of the artists of the game,” Scariolo said. “He was simply inspirational; he was out of this planet.”
The Spain coach went on the repeat himself a little, but we got the general picture and who could argue it. Navarro painted a masterpiece of a third quarter, which included an off balance three with two Macedonians in his face.
Spain now has the chance to retain their EuroBasket crown that they won in 2009 with Navarro a definite front runner for the MVP award. Los Angeles Lakers star Pau Gasol won it two years ago.
For France, they’ve waited 11 years for a return to the Olympics. Spurs guard Tony Parker was in tears at the final buzzer when the French defeated Andrei Kirilenko’s Russia 79-71, a game where Parker led all scorers with 22 points.
“I’ve been chasing this (the Olympics) for 11 years,” Parker said. A few tears still rolling fresh down his cheek. “I had tears in my eyes at the buzzer, and when I knew that we had won the game I was so happy. I‘m very happy to play for the French team, I‘m very happy to be French.”
France earned its right to be in the final. They caused a little controversy in Vilnius when they faced Spain in a game where nothing was on line apart from who finished first and second. France rested Parker and Joakim Noah, even though the latter had an injury and Spain ran out comfortable 96-69 winners.
France coach Vincent Collet wanted to rest Parker and Noah ahead of the quarter finals in Kaunas, which is fair enough. Coach Scariolo hinted in his opening statements at the post-game press conference that France didn’t respect his team or the tournament.
Scariolo was asked in that press conference if he thought France disrespected him, his team and EuroBasket.
“Not at all, every team has their own physical situation, every team has its own principles, every team has a different situation.” Scariolo commented. Almost back-tracking a little bit.
It’s been a long road to the final, for just less than three weeks, 24 teams have played in six arenas and in most people’s opinions, this is the correct final. Eight of the 10 players who will be court tomorrow earn their trade in the NBA with a further two on the bench for Spain. One thing for sure is that Collet will definitely be playing Noah and Parker.
Ten NBA Players:
Spain — Pau Gasol (Lakers), Rudy Fernandez (Mavericks), Ricky Rubio (Timberwolves), Jose Calderon (Raptors), Marc Gasol (Grizzlies), Serge Ibaka (Thunder)
France — Joakim Noah (Bulls), Nicolas Batum (Trail Blazers), Tony Parker (Spurs), Boris Diaw (Bobcats)