|Spain celebrating the win over Italy|
Playing after Lithuania’s dramatic come-from-behind 74-70 win over France, Italy were threatening to pull off a third straight upset of their own but ultimately lost 81-79 as Massimo Bulleri missed a three-point shot at the end.
Memphis Grizzlies seven-footer Gasol, the best player at the championships through the quarter-final round, scored 10 points in the first quarter but was virtually shut down the rest of the way.
He was held to just two free throws after half-time with the Azzurri determined to take away Spain’s first option on offence and finished with 14 points.
Juan Carlos Navarro rose to the occasion with eight points in the third quarter and 13 in the fourth.
"We needed help from the outside in this game," said Gasol.
"Juan Carlos Navarro has always been a very talented player. He is aggressive, can shoot and penetrate. He did all that in the second half. I hope he will play as good tomorrow."
Navarro was sensational, making three tough runners in the lane in the last three minutes. He was seven of 10 from the field and five of six from the line in the second half to finish with 23 points.
His outstanding night would have been for nought had Italy scored at the end.
Navarro was whistled for an offensive foul to give the ball back to the Azzurri and Recalcati called for a player to get the ball in Giacomo Galanda’s hands, but Benetton Treviso guard Bulleri, one of the top players in the Italian league last season, missed a fadeaway jumper.
“On the last play we set a pick for Bulleri and Galanda made a cut to the corner for a three pointer,” Italy coach Carlo Recalcati said.
Bulleri led Italy with a game high 24 points and also grabbed six rebounds.
|“||I am unhappy with the loss but satisfied watching my team play as they did today||„|
“I’m glad that we will have another chance to qualify for the Olympic Games.”
Spain and Lithuania are in the Olympics by virtue of Saturday’s wins, but Italy must now upset France to earn a place in Athens next summer.
France hammered Italy in the group stage.
“Sometimes the opponent is able to do enough to beat you,” he said. “That’s what happened today.
“Tomorrow’s game against France will be a game without tomorrow. Both teams will put everything they have on the floor.
“We know France very well. We played our worst game of the tournament against them. They are very talented and very athletic. But it has happened before that a team that has lost by huge numbers is able to come back and win.”
Lithuania reeled off the game’s last nine points to beat France 74-70.
The Baltic side, bronze medallists in Sydney, put paid to the hopes of the French who boasted one of the most talented, athletic sides in the competition, led by their San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker (24 points).
But Parker, who won the NBA title with the Spurs earlier this summer, ended the game in ignominious fashion.
With France trailing 72-70, Parker dribbled the ball upcourt for a potential game-tying, or game-winning basket, lost control of the ball and turned it over to Lithuania.
|Action from the Semi-Final Lithuania - France|
Parker finished the game with a last-second heave upcourt which didn’t draw iron, and Lithuania celebrated one of their remarkable wins.
Saulius Stombergas led Lithuania with 22 points and point guard Sarunas Jasikevicius had a superlative effort with 14 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
Jasikevicius, who since leading Barcelona to the Euroleague title earlier this year has signed with Maccabi Tel Aviv, made four of his eight three-pointers on the afternoon.