One European Team To Have Shot At Gold

07 August 2012

4. Pau GASOL (Spain)
Pau Gasol is averaging 20.6 points for Spain in the London Games. Can he lead his team to a second consecutive Olympic Final?

Europe has had a team in the Final of every Olympics since the 1948 London Games.

That tradition will continue following the conclusion of the Preliminary Round of this year's tournament.

Either Spain, France, Russia or Lithuania will play in the title game against Brazil, Argentina, the United States or Australia.

Monday's results left the United States top of Group A with France second, Argentina third and Lithuania fourth.

Russia, who fell for the first time in London to the Aussies in the day's first game, 82-80, had already locked up first place in Group B.

Brazil defeated Spain to leave those two sides second and third, respectively, in Group B, and Australia ended up in fourth.

Russia will play Lithuania in the last eight on Wednesday and Spain will go up against France.

The winners of those Quarter-Finals will meet in the Semi-Finals, with the side that prevails advancing to the title game.

The Lithuanians trailed by double-digits in the second half against Tunisia on Monday and were in danger of falling into a three-way tie for fourth place with the Tunisians and Nigerians.

But Kestutis Kemzura's side came back and beat Tunisia, 76-63.

Darius Songaila led a balanced Lithuanian attack with 13 points.

The Baltic side outscored the Afrobasket 2011 champions 26-9 in the fourth quarter.

"In the second half we added intensity," Kemzura said.

"We made some important threes and in the fourth quarter we played great defense. Our bench players gave us great energy."

Nicolas Batum poured in 23 points as France narrowly avoided an upset against Nigeria, winning 79-73.

Russia coach David Blatt had steered his side to four wins in as many games at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Caracas and then four straight in London before Monday, but Pat Mills hit a three-pointer at the buzzer for Australia for a two-point triumph.

"I didn't think we played particularly well," Blatt said.

"I think we suffered a bit from the fact that the game was without significance."

Not only had Russia already sealed first place, but the Boomers were assured of finishing fourth.

"We tried, we wanted to play hard and I think we did that. We weren't really, really sharp but I think it's natural."

Spain had needed to win against Brazil to finish second and led for much of the game but fell away in the fourth quarter when Brazil outscored them, 31-16.

Last year's EuroBasket champions have now lost two straight.

Pau Gasol became Spain's all-time leading scorer at the Olympics when scoring 25 points, giving him a total of 417 in his career.

He surpassed Spanish legend Juan Antonio San Epifanio, who poured in 409 points in Olympic Games.

Spain's defeat has raised a lot of questions about their form as they attempt to win a first gold medal at the Summer Games.

"We have to improve, especially offensively, and not lose our confidence," coach Sergio Scariolo said.

Spain know they will not play their biggest rivals to the title, the United States, until the Final.

Both the Spaniards and Americans must win two difficult games, however, if the Olympics are to have a rematch of the thrilling 2008 gold-medal game that the USA won, 118-107.


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