Gasol drives battling Spain into Basketball World Cup final
NBA champion Marc Gasol saved Spain on Friday as they battled back to
beat Australia 95-88 after a second overtime period and reach the
Basketball World Cup final.
They will face either France quarter-final winners over reigning
two-time champions the United States or Argentina in Sunday's decider
A thrilling semi-final was 71-71 at the end of regulation time and the
two sides could not be separated at the end of a nervy first overtime.
Finally, the 2006 world champions Spain jubilantly emerged after the
Boomers appeared to run out of juice.
Sergio Llull hit two three-pointers in the second overtime for Spain
to cap their comeback.
Gasol, the Toronto Raptors centre, finished with 33 points, six
rebounds and four assists after stepping up late in a breathtaking
game when his country needed him most.
"We came back, we stuck together through tough times, that means a
lot," said the 34-year-old, a three-time NBA All-Star.
The Spaniard played a key role in the Raptors' historic run to the NBA
crown and knows that victory on Sunday will cap the perfect season.
"It's been great, I have been very fortunate," he said.
"I knew that it would not be easy physically (going from the NBA
Finals to the World Cup) but it's definitely worth it.
"Not because of the final but passing along those values to the team.
It's our turn to pass on the legacy to the next generation (of the
Ricky Rubio was also pivotal once more for Spain with 19 points, 12
assists, seven rebounds and four steals.
Red-hot Patty Mills was unfortunate to be on the losing side, leading
Australia with 34 points.
The Australians, who had never gone beyond the quarter-finals in 11
previous World Cups, had the whiff of revenge in their nostrils -- and
a first final.
Spain edged the Boomers 89-88 in the bronze-medal match at the Rio
2016 Olympics and the Australians had waited three long years to get
their own back.
In San Antonio Spurs livewire Mills they had one of the players of the
World Cup and his three-pointer midway through the second quarter put
Australia 27-22 in front.
The in-form guard pulled off the same trick with 88 seconds left on
the clock in the second quarter to give Australia a 37-32 advantage at
But Spain slashed the lead to four points going into the fourth
quarter and then just two points with 3:44 left.
Spain were just one point behind with 28 seconds to run and they had
the momentum. Gasol, nerves of steel, nailed two free throws to put
Spain up 71-70.
Mills then made one free throw with four seconds left but missed the
other and the match was level at the end of regulation time.
Despite the crushing disappointment, Australia will need to raise
themselves for Sunday's bronze-medal match and this is still their
best World Cup performance.
Coach Andrej Lemanis called it "a hell of a game of basketball and fun
to be involved with".
"Tough to lose, no doubt, it comes down to a couple of plays here and
there," he said.
"At the end of the day, we had chan
ces to win the game, we had every
opportunity to win the game."