Pau Gasol might have single-handedly defeated hosts France on his own after a 40-point explosion in the Eurobasket semi-final in front of a European indoor attendance record of 26,922 in Lille, but even though he contributed to half of Spain’s total points scored on that night, the Chicago Bulls man still praised his team-mates.
And for good reason … sure, only Sergio Rodriguez was the other Spanish player to reach double-figures in scoring with 15 points but Gasol’s “supporting cast” were instrumental in Spain’s Olympic-qualifying victory against the Eurobasket hosts.
Spain, as a defensive unit hounded France’s Tony Parker and Nicholas Batum, making life extremely difficult for them offensively and while Les Bleus had their moments, when on the attack, it was very sporadic.
Parker finished with 10 points on 4/17 shooting, Batum; 3/14, shooting 23 and 21 percent from the floor, respectively.
“I take pride in that people see I was decisive in the victory against France, which has been a very great victory,” Gasol said. “But it would have been impossible without the demonstration of character and pride of the entire team.
“I shrug up that sort of praise. When you win. All is well, when you’re down, it’s when they come with critiques.”
No criticism here.
Spain, as a team more than deserve their place in Sunday’s final. Even more so as they have been without NBA stars Ricky Rubio, Jose Calderon, Marc Gasol and Barcelona’s Juan Carlos Navarro this summer.
Last year at the FIBA World Cup, all the big guns were all on the roster and they came up short, very short. Something that 35-year-old Gasol still thinks about.
“The team’s situation is very different from a year ago,” Gasol said.
“The big difference is that the team is focused and working together with a goal from the beginning, while a year ago there were many distractions now, everything is different. It is a different scenario, with different roster and nothing more. We were not favourites from the beginning there are many things.”
And now comes Sunday’s final, a rematch of the 2003 Eurobasket final in Sweden, where Gasol was one of only two players that starred in that game, along with team-mate Felipe Reyes.
Lithuania are completely different, 12 years on. No one from the 2003-championship winning roster are active but Gasol knows the hard graft that will have to go into Sunday’s decider.
“It will be a difficult final because Lithuania has beaten the two rivals who beat us in Berlin [Italy and Serbia] and already that’s enough to make you respect them fully and give them maximum credit,” Gasol said.
“They have a very strong team that will make it very difficult to win, by their game and fighting spirit. We’ll have to stay highly focused because the concentration, working together, that pride and courage, those are the things that have brought us to this final, and now we must make the last effort. “