EuroBasket roundup: France, Russia advance to semifinals

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We have our EuroBasket Final Four. And while it wasn’t easy for either side in the Thursday games, the favorites prevailed to set up a fascinating showdown for a 2012 London Olympics berth Friday.

Here are Thursday’s results (including Lithuania earning its way to next summer’s pre-Olympics qualifying tournament).

Friday we will have the both semifinals and both Olympic berths decided (win and you’re in), with the other semifinal between Spain and Macedonia.

France 64, Greece 56: Greece is one of those teams that just makes you grind, that makes the game ugly. France is prone to stretches where their offense goes on hiatus (traditionally that happens in the knockout rounds of international competitions). Those two things came together for three quarters on Thursday and the result was a 43-40 Greek lead heading into the fourth quarter.

But in the fourth France’s superior talent won out, with Tony Parker and the Trail Blazers’ Nicolas Batum combining for 18 points. Throw in guard Nando De Colo and you basically have all of France’s offense for the game (Joakim Noah was 1-of-8 shooting).

Russia 77, Serbia 67: Russia remains the only undefeated team in EuroBasket, and they do it with a true team game. Guys like Andrei Kirilenko — who can do a little bit of everything, inside and out — typify this team and what makes them hard to beat. Kirilenko had 14 points and 11 rebounds in this win.

Russia is coached by American Dave Blatt, a smart tactician, and he is going to make the semifinal against France interesting. He is going to find a way to cut off Tony Parker’s penetration (go under the picks), he will find a way to make it difficult for France to score. How France responds will be part of that. France plays fantastic interior defense, too, it will be interesting to see how Blatt adapts his team’s game plan. But he has a lot of weapons at his disposal.

Lithuania 80, Slovina 77: With that win, Lithuania (probably the third or fourth best team over the course of this tournament) is on to the Olympics qualifying tournament next summer (where the teams that just missed out this summer will battle it out for the three last spots in the London games). Lithuania pulled ahead in the second quarter then held on for the win in the second half.

Clippers blow 18-point lead, lose in final 2 seconds on putback to Kings (VIDEO)

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The Los Angeles Clippers had a rough go of things against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday. Up by 18 with more than five minutes to go, LA blew their lead and were left to watch as the Kings sealed the game late.

The final possession for Sacramento came on a missed corner 3-pointer by Clippers guard Jamal Crawford. The Kings got the outlet pass out on the rebound, but Ben McLemore took it to the rack and missed. That’s when Willie Cauley-Stein stepped in, cleaned up the board, and put the game-winning shot home with less than two seconds left.

Los Angeles lost in spectacular fashion, and became the only team this season to lose given their game situation.

Here’s a compilation the NBA put together of Sacramento’s epic comeback:

Meanwhile, Chris Paul called it the worst regular season loss of his career.

The Clippers peaked too soon. Like, the first 20 games of the season too soon.

Russell Westbrook throws incredible halfcourt bounce pass vs. Rockets (VIDEO)

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Russell Westbrook had yet another triple-double on Sunday. The Oklahoma City Thunder star notched 13 assists in the loss to the Houston Rockets, 137-125, and one of them came on a nifty pass to teammate Victor Oladipo.

The play happened with the Thunder on the fastbreak early in the third quarter. Westbrook was moving from left-to-right across the middle of the floor with the ball while Oladipo streaked down the right wing.

With the Rockets defense collapsing, Westbrook reached halfcourt and fired a bounce pass that sliced through the opposition.

Oladipo finished with the clean dunk.

Still not sure it beats this one, but I think we’ll have to compare once the season comes to a close.

Kobe Bryant on race for Podoloff Trophy: “We might see our first co-MVPs this year”

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The race between James Harden and Russell Westbrook for the 2017 NBA MVP has narrowed to a two-man race toward the end of the season. The Oklahoma City Thunder star is averaging at triple-double this year, and the Houston Rockets guard is doing things nobody has ever done on a basketball court before.

It’s a tough decision to decide between them, so much so that even former Los Angeles Lakers great and 2008 NBA MVP Kobe Bryant can’t do it.

Speaking on ESPN on Sunday, Bryant said he thought the league might have to just bite the bullet on Westbrook vs. Harden.

“We might see our first co-MVPs this year,” said Bryant.

That would be a huge step for the league, but I’m not entirely sure they would do it. There have been co-NBA All-Star Game MVPs in years past, but never league MVP.

Still, can you decide between Russ and Harden? The Mamba can’t.

Watch Rockets C Nene lead the break, eurostep past Enes Kanter (VIDEO)

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Houston Rockets center Nene is from Brazil, but on Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder the South American native went full euro.

On a fastbreak possession, Nene took on Thunder big man Enes Kanter near the rim and absolutely shook him with a nasty eurostep.

The play was so good that it forced Oklahoma City to call a timeout as James Harden and the rest of the Rockets bench met Nene on the court to celebrate.