BEIJING, China – Spain displayed nerves of steel and eked out a 95-88 double-overtime win over Australia to reach the finals of the FIBA World Cup at the Wukesong Sports Arena in Beijing, China on Friday, September 13.
Marc Gasol churned out 33 points on top of 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocks as Spain stormed back from a deficit as large as 11 points to advance to the championship round of the World Cup for the second time in history.
Ricky Rubio also starred with a double-double of 19 points and 12 assists and also posted 7 rebounds and 4 steals.
Putting an end to Australia’s historic World Cup run, Spain awaits the winner between France and Argentina.
France ousted reigning two-time champion the United States, while Argentina also knocked out title favorite Serbia in the quarterfinal.
Red-hot Patty Mills paced Australia with 32 points.
The Australians, who had never gone beyond the quarterfinals in 11 previous attempts, had the whiff of revenge in their nostrils.
Spain edged the Boomers, 89-88, in the bronze-medal match at the Rio 2016 Olympics and the Australians had waited 3 long years to get their own back.
This semifinal – billed as the Australian offense against the defense of Spain – 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.
Gasol stepped up late in a breathtaking game when his country needed him most as Sergio Llull also hit two three-pointers in the second overtime for Spain to cap their comeback
“We came back, we stuck together through tough times, that means a lot,” said Gasol, a three-time NBA All-Star.
The Spaniard played a key role in the Toronto 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 Spain team).”
Hell of a game
San Antonio Spurs livewire Mills has been one of the top players of the World Cup in China and his three-pointer midway through the 2nd 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 2nd quarter to give Australia a 37-32 advantage at the break.
But Spain slashed the lead to 4 points going into the 4th quarter and then just 2 points with 3:44 left.
Spain was just one point behind with 28 seconds to run and they had the momentum as Gasol nailed two free throws to put Spain up 71-70.
Mills then made one free throw but missed the other and the match was level 71-71 at the end of regulation time.
The veteran Australian center Andrew Bogut was again loudly booed and jeered by locals in the arena aggrieved at a tweet he sent in July about Chinese champion swimmer Sun Yang.
Australians in the crowd, many of them dressed in the national colors, chanted his name in support.
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 chances to win the game, we had every opportunity to win the game.” – Rappler.com