Juan Carlos Navarro led by example as he drained 26 points in 26 minutes as Spain romped to a 86-64 success over Slovenia.
“We’re very happy to be in the semi-finals,” Navarro said through a translator. “We had a very bad first half, but we played much better in the second half and that’s how we won.”
Pau Gasol recorded a monster double-double of 19 points and 16 rebounds, as Spain ran riot in the third quarter, outscoring their opponents 36-14.
Spain started static though, a shadow of the side that had blown-out the hosts in Panevezys, plus Serbia and France in Vilnius. The passes were sloppy, the shooting was off. Slovenia, on the other hand played like a team with nothing to lose. Forcing the Eurobasket gold-medallists into six turnovers in the first ten minutes.
Led by Erazem Lorbek, Slovenia attacked Spain early, hitting them in transition and taking advantage of Spain’s bad passing, especially from Navarro, who had four of those six turnovers. His bad form was rectified quickly, though.
Lorbek had seven points in the first ten minutes, and Slovenia almost had a double-digit lead at 26-16 to end the first period, but Saso Ozbolt’s triple was released after the buzzer went.
Spain though responded, as they started to come to life as the game progressed. Holding the Slovenians to nine points in the second period, as they let their first quarter lead slip away as Felipe Reyes gave Spain the lead, and Jose Calderon extended it further with a jumper (32-28).
Slovenia could only manage another three points to end the half, as Spain took a four-point lead going back to the locker-rooms (35-31).
The Zalgiris Arena was then treated to a three-point masterclass from Spain. It wasn’t just Navarro, Rudy Fernandez or Sergio Llull shooting and hitting, the off-ball movement that led to their long-range bombardment was sublime. A pure masterclass from the holders and favourites.
Slovenia had no answer as Spain hit 12 unanswered points to take a 44-31 lead as Slovenia coach Bozidar Maljkovic looked on in shock, as his side could not build on their solid first quarter showing.
“It was a very tough game for us,” Goran Dragic said at the post-game press conference. “We played well in the first half and were in a good position, but after the half-time break we made too many turnovers. After that it was tough to match-up with Spain.”
Dragic led Slovenia with 14 points.
Navarro is now looking forward to the day of rest as Spain look forward to the semi-finals: “We have one day to rest now and that’s a good thing, because we want and need to be as ready as possible for the very important semi-finals.”