France players celebrate with their trophy after winning their European championship basketball final against Lithuania in Ljubljana’s Arena Stozice September 22, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Antonio Bronic LJUBLJANA | Mon Sep 23, 2013 12:03am BST LJUBLJANA (Reuters) – An inspired France won their maiden basketball title in any major competition after overwhelming Lithuania 80-66 in an enthralling European championship final on Sunday. Thriving on long-range shooting and effervescent performances by the tournament’s most valuable player Tony Parker, Portland Trailblazers guard Nicolas Batum and forward Boris Diaw, the French finally touched the pinnacle after finishing as runners-up in 1949 and 2011. Thriving on long-range shooting and an effervescent performance by Portland Trailblazers guard Nicholas Batum, the French finally touched the pinnacle after finishing as runners-up in 1949 and 2011. “It’s very emotional as I’ve been chasing this for ten years,” 31-year old Parker, who marshalled his team with the authority of a treble NBA champion, told the France 2 television channel. “We have made history because the first title is always the most beautiful. I received so many messages of support this morning and I didn’t want to disappoint people. The great (semi-final) victory over Spain boosted our confidence for this match.” Although the San Antonio Spurs playmaker at times struggled with mid-range jump shots, he carved out the supply routes with incisive passing, while Batum nailed one perimeter shot after another and forward Boris Diaw did the damage in the paint on both ends of the court. A fired-up Batum, who endured a patchy tournament and averaged only 11 points per game up to the final, found his range and sank 17 in the first half as France turned a 22-19 first-quarter deficit into a 50-34 halftime lead. Forward Linas Kleiza carried the Lithuanians with 16 points early in the game but lack of support from back-court players pegged back the 2003 winners as they also got muscled off the boards by an athletic French outfit who picked up 17 rebounds more than their rivals. France built a 76-56 lead with three minutes left and set the tone for celebrations in the Stozice Arena, with Parker netting a pair of audacious lay-ups in the closing stages to put the icing on the cake and throw the French fans into raptures. He finished the game with 12 points, Diaw chipped in with 15 and six rebounds while Batum could take the foot off the gas pedal as the rest of the French team joined the party, with 10 of their 12 players getting on the scoresheet. “What we’ve just done is amazing,” Batum, who finished with 17 points and six rebounds, said in a courtside interview. “We fought, we never gave up. French basketball needed that and it’s pure rapture.” Diaw added: “This is what we managed to achieve after a decade of building and hard work.
Tony Parker leads France to first European basketball championship
Nicolas Batum came up with 17 points, and Boris Diaw added 15 as the rest of Frances lineup shot a hair out under 52 percent. It didnt prevent Parker from being named MVP of the tournament, during which he improved to third on the events all-time scoring list. France trailed 29-27 in the second quarter when it engineered a 21-3 run to close the half. Lithuania never got as close as 14 the rest of the way as Les Bleus romped two years to avenge their loss to Spain in the 2011 final. Its hard to describe how I feel,” said Parker, who recently said he was still hurting after the Spurs seven-game loss to Miami in the Finals. The journey was unbelievable. I wouldnt change a thing. I won the title. Im a little tired. I felt it in the quarters and semis. And before the game coach (Vincent Collet)said trust your teammates. If you score 10 points we will win the final. And he was right. The victory came on the heels of reports that Parker, who has been playing for France at various levels since he was 15, will skip next summers FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain.
San Antonio Spurs star Tony Parker had a quiet game for France, which broke open a close contest by closing the third quarter with a 14-0 run that kept Lithuania scoreless for 4 minutes. France’s lead grew to 22 with 3 minutes remaining in the third and Lithuania never recovered. Nicolas Batum of the Portland Trail Blazers scored 17 points, and Boris Diaw – Parker’s Spurs teammate – added 15 for France. Parker, who finished with 12 points after scoring only four through the first three quarters, was named tournament MVP after scoring 32 points against defending champion Spain in the semifinals. Linas Kleiza, who played seven seasons in the NBA with Portland and Denver, led Lithuania with 20 points. The championship ended years of frustration for a strong French squad that includes six NBA players on its roster. France lost the final against Spain two years ago and won the bronze in 2005. After finally capturing the elusive gold – in France’s record 36th appearance in the tournament – Parker led his teammates into the stands to celebrate with fans after the final buzzer. Spain beat Croatia 92-66 earlier in the bronze medal game. Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
France, Lithuania into Euro finale
Marc Gasol missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer after Rodriguez had missed a previous attempt to tie it. “We had the last shots in both regulation and overtime, but we missed,” Spain coach Juan Orenga said. Diot was the only other French player in double figures with 10 points, while Gasol led Spain with 19 points and nine rebounds and Fernandez scored 17. Point guard Ricky Rubio was limited to two points, one assist and four turnovers. “We put a lot of intensity in the game and it allowed us to come back in the second half,” Diot said. Spain beat France to win the title two years ago, but this time it was missing Pau Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro . Spain will play Croatia for the bronze. “It’s very disappointing to lose a game we led for 37 minutes. We played great defense in the first half but in the second we let them play their rhythm,” said Rodriguez, who finished with 11 points, 9 assists and 6 rebounds. Parker finished with five turnovers and one assist, along with six rebounds. “We were scared at halftime. Now, we have to control our joy.