Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Spain hand French first loss

Spain's Pau Gasol vies with France's Kevin Seraphin (L) during the EuroBasket 2011, second round, Group E, qualifying match between France and Spain in Vilnius on September 11, 2011.
Photograph by: JOE KLAMAR, AFP/Getty Images

VILNIUS, Sept 12, 2011 (AFP) - Spain handed under-manned France their first loss of the 2011 European Championship on Sunday while Serbia and hosts Lithuania also moved into the quarter-finals and European basketball may have seen Dirk Nowitzki for the last time.

Juan Carlos Navarro scored 16 points to lead five players in double figures in Spain’s 96-69 victory over France to take top honors in the second round Group E. Spain, who finished the group at 4-1, broke the game open with a 27-4 run to start the second half.

France coach Vincent Collet sat NBA stars Tony Parker and Joakim Noah due to injuries with Kevin Seraphin leading Les Bleus with 19 points while Ali Traore scored 16 points.

"It was a weird game. We wanted to respect our opponents and the other teams that are competing in the final standings. Above all, we wanted to win for ourselves," said Spain coach Sergio Scariolo.

Collet was pleased with his team’s showing in the first half - in which France trailed just 39-38 at half-time. "Despite missing Tony, Joakim and Mickael, we played well. Our first half gave us too much confidence and we started the second badly," said Collet. Also moving into the quarter-finals on Sunday were Serbia and hosts Lithuania.

Lithuania knew it could afford a 10-point loss to Germany and still advance. But Rimantas Kaukenas tallied 19 points and Sarunas Jasikevicius had 17 points as Lithuania beat Germany 84-75.

Lithuania held Nowitzki to just 16 points on a poor four of 17 shooting performance in what may have been the 33-year-old’s final game for the German national team.

And the NBA champion blamed himself for his team’s failure to reach the quarters.

"It’s my fault. I was not in condition to play a good tournament," said Nowitzki.

Chris Kaman collected 25 points and 11 rebounds in the loss while Robin Benzing had 18 points and Heiko Schaffartzik scored 13 points. Germany actually took the lead by two points early in the fourth quarter but Lithuania answered with a 9-0 run to end Germany’s hopes.

Milos Teodosic collected 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists while Dusko Savanovic added 14 points and two crucial defensive plays in the final four seconds in Serbia’s 68-67 victory over Turkey.

Serbia had a 14-point lead in the second quarter but the Turks got back to within one point at 56-55 and then 68-67 on Ender Arslan’s layup with 35 seconds to play.

After Teodosic missed a three-pointer with 15 seconds remaining, Savanovic blocked Omer Onan’s layup attempt with four seconds to play and rebounded Ersan Ilyasova’s missed jumper with one second left.

"This was very tough. Everybody was under pressure as the winner would go to the quarter-finals," said Serbia coach Dusan Ivkovic.

"We led the game for almost 40 minutes only to allow Turkey to have the last shot. We deserved this victory because we were better on the night."

Group F will be completed on Monday with Russia, Macedonia and Greece already into the final eight.

Slovenia and Finland will battle for the final spot in the quarters. Finishing in the top six is most important for the teams as the finalists are given automatic berths in the 2012 Olympics while spots 3-6 advance to Pre-Olympic Tournament, from which the final three spots come for the London Games.

© Copyright (c) AFP


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