Pau Gasol put on an MVP showing with 26 points and seven rebounds in just 18 minutes as world champions Spain overcame a motivated Israel 99-73 to clinch first place in Group E of the 2007 EuroBasket.
Spain scored the first 19 points of the fourth quarter to blow the game wide open in front of the home fans in Madrid.
|Lior Eliyahu was one of three Israelies with 15 points.|
"We have achieved our aim which was to finish top of our group. We knew we had to play three tough games in the qualifying round and we've had to work hard to beat all of our opponents, including Israel tonight," said Gasol.
"It was a very difficult match. Israel always gives us a hard time and this time was no exception," added Calderon. "It took us time to get in the game, but once we took over it was our game."
The victory also means that Croatia will join Spain, Russia and Greece in the quarter-finals.
With a victory, Israel would have advanced to the quarter-finals for the first time since taking seventh in 2003 and just the second time since 1983.
"We showed everybody that we can match with the world champions. Spain is the best team here, and for more than 25 minutes we were in the game," said Israel forward Ido Kozikaro.
Lior Eliyahu, Meir Tapiro and Matan Naor each scored 15 points in a losing cause and combined for 12 rebounds, 11 assists and five steals. Yaniv Green collected nine points and 10 rebounds.
Pepu Hernandez made two changes to his starting lineup, as Sergio Rodriguez and Benri Rodriguez replaced Calderon and Rudy Fernandez, respectively.
|Jorge Garbajosa was four of seven from three-point range.|
Gasol scored 10 points in the first quarter as Spain trimmed the deficit to four points, but Tapiro and Eliyahu both hit three-pointers in the final 25 seconds to push the lead to 29-19 after the first period.
A Tapiro long bomb extended the advantage to 32-19 early in the second, but it was Calderon's turn to take over as the Toronto Raptors play-maker scored 10 points in the period, and Gasol's turn-around jumper evened things at 43-43.
Israel, however, remained ahead 48-47 at the break.
Gasol continued in the second half where he left off in the first, scoring seven of Spain's first nine points as they pulled ahead 56-52 and Garbajosa drained three three-pointers over a three-minute stretch to extend the advantage to 69-60.
Israel would not go down without a fight, and Naor hit three from downtown to keep Zvi Sherf's team within 74-68 after three periods.
Israel's luck, however, had run out in the fourth quarter as they failed to score in the first 7:40 of the period and Spain surged ahead 93-68 with the first 19 points of the final quarter.