Spain has secured an Olympic spot at London 2012 and a place in the final of Eurobasket, thanks to a 92-80 win over FYR of Macedonia.
In a battle of the leading MVP candidates, Juan Carlos Navarro won the battle over Macedonia’s Bo McCalebb leading the victors with 35 points.
McCalebb led FYROM with 25 points.
“It was a tough game for us,” Spain’s Serge Ibaka said. “We’re one of the best teams in the history of Spanish basketball and it’s a great pride for me to be part of such team.”
The Macedonians were physical from the start, the Gasol brothers were being closely marked at all times, even to the point of Pau having to leave the court early due to foul trouble.
When Pau came off though, coach Scariolo brought on Serge Ibaka, and he made an instant impact on proceedings, scoring seven points in his six minutes on court, including a tip-dunk off a Marc Gasol miss.
FYR of Macedonia were struggling, their shots were hurried. Spain took full advantage, Sergio Llull draining a three-pointer on the buzzer to give Spain a 26-18 cushion after one.
Ricky Rubio hit his first triple of the tournament to extend Spain’s lead to nine, but the Macedonians hit back.
The FYR of Macedonia, the surprise package of Eurobasket drew to within one thanks to Vojdan Stojanovski, and then took the lead, thanks to Vojdan’s brother, Damjan, who gave the Macedonians a 32-31 lead.
Macedonia held on to take a 45-44 lead at the interval.
Spain though stepped up a gear and FRYOM found Navarro in unstoppable form, as he hit three triples as the holders ran riot to lead 71-62 after the third quarter.
At this time, Navarro had 29 points, 19 in the third alone.
“It was a masterpiece, like seeing a picture in the Louvre” Spain coach Sergio Scariolo commented of Navarro’s third quarter explosion. “It was the art of basketball.”
FYR of Macedonia rallied, but found the gap too much.
The Gasol brothers ended with double-doubles, as Pau had 22 points and 17 rebounds while Marc had 11 points and 10 boards.