Tony Parker has three NBA titles and a Finals MVP, but in six previous attempts he had not been able to lead his native France to a EuroBasket championship.
France won it’s first ever European title on Sunday, pulling away from Lithuania in the second quarter and cruising to an 80-66 win.
France did it with a lineup that should look pretty familiar to Spurs fans — Parker, Boris Diaw, and Nando De Colo. But it was another NBA player who key on Sunday in Slovenia.
Portland’s Nicolas Batum took control in the second quarter when France pulled away with an 18-3 run that led to a 31-12 quarter for France. Batum hit a few threes and finished with a team high 17 points on the night, plus six boards.
Lithuania led by three after one quarter — mostly thanks to Linas Kleiza —but after the run they were down 16 at the half and the entire second half felt was like a coronation for France. The outcome was never really in doubt those final 20 minutes.
For past couple weeks of the European championships Parker has been the best player on the court, but in the championship game he was a cold (4-of-14 to start, he hit 2 of his last 3 and finished with 12 points). But the win is all he will care about — Parker has been incredibly loyal to the French national team for years and has said a European championship was something he really wanted on his resume. Now he has it.
The Raptors Jonas Valančiūnas had looked strong through the tournament but he played just 11 minutes in the finals and had no points and three rebounds. He had some foul trouble but not going to him more was an odd coaching choice.
Diaw added 15 points and six boards for France. Kleiza had 20 points to lead Lithuania.
In the days earlier game, Spain crushed Croatia for the bronze medal, winning 92-66. All four of those teams will be in Spain next year for the World Championship, although France may be without Parker.