Spain, the silver medal team in Beijing who gave the United States all it could handle in the gold medal game, will be back for the London Olympics. They will be joined by a French team led by Tony Parker and Joakim Noah.
Friday Spain and France won their games to advance to the finals of EuroBasket. Both teams want the European championship, but they have gotten the two automatic bids from the continent to the Olympics.
Here are some breakdowns:
Spain 92, Macedonia 80: Macedonia’s team reminded me a little bit of the 2000 Philadelphia 76ers — they played fantastic defense and counted on one small, quick guard to create a lot of their offense. Then eventually they ran into just too talented a team.
Macedonia led by one at the half, 45-44, and it felt like an upset. Bo McCalebb had carried the Macedonian offense to the semifinals and he had 25 in this game.
But he was not the best guard on the floor, that was Juan Carlos Navarro. He took over in the second half scoring 19 third quarter points and finishing with 35. Pau Gasol finished with 22 points and 17 rebounds.
Macedonia still had a fantastic tournament and will be in the pre-Olympic qualifying tournament next summer, a second chance to surprise some teams and sneak into the games.
France 79, Russia 71: Russia’s strategy was to give Tony Parker jump shots, not let him penetrate. It was pretty successful, but Parker still hit 9-of-20 shots on his way to 23 points, and nobody accounted for Nicolas Batum, who had 19 points on 8 shots.
France plays good defense, if they get enough offense they are hard to beat. If Parker’s jumper is falling at a decent rate they are hard to beat. Both those things happened, Russia could not maintain floor balance with their defense and the result is France going on to the Olympics.
Andrei Kirilenko had 21 points and Timofey Mozgov had 12 for a Russian team headed to the pre-qualifying tournament next summer (where they should be a favorite to get one of the last-chance Olympic spots).
The Spain against France final should be interesting. Spain has a long front line — Marc and Pau Gasol as well as Serge Ibaka — but their help rotations have been spotty this year. If Parker can get into the lane he can cause trouble for them. Spain is the favorite, they crushed France in a friendly this summer. (You can throw out Spain beating France at EuroBasket, Parker and other key French players sat that one out.)