You are currently viewing the printable version of this article, to return to the normal page, please click here.

France is 1 win from first basketball gold

LJUBLJANA, SLOVENIA (AP) - Tony Parker is one win from finally guiding France to its first major basketball title.

Having scored 32 points to lead France past two-time defending champion Spain 75-72 in overtime in Friday's semifinals at the European championship, Parker needs just one more big performance when his team plays Lithuania for the gold medal on Sunday.

He was in the same position two years ago, only for his team to lose to Spain in the final.

"Now, we have to control our joy. Two years ago we were so happy for having qualified for the Olympics that we botched the final," said Parker, the San Antonio Spurs star guard.

By beating Spain, France finally overcame an opponent that has long dominated Parker's talented generation. France had a 5-19 record against Spain going into the semifinal, including the loss in the 2011 final and at last year's Olympic quarterfinals in London.

France has two silvers and five bronze medals at the European championships _ and had it not been for the gifted Spanish generation, it probably would have won the gold, too.

"We've been coming closer and we want the best medal now," Parker said.

While Parker is the team's leader, he is not the only talented player _ he's one of six NBA players on the French roster that includes Boris Diaw and Nicolas Batum.

Parker tops France with 19.7 points per game and is close to a tournament record _ he needs 21 points in the final to become the tournament's all-time leading scorer. By taking his total to 984 points, he passed Dirk Nowitzki by one and is 20 behind Nikos Galis.

France came back after trailing by 14 and being dominated by Spain in the first half, wearing down the Spaniards in the second half and overcoming 19 points from Marc Gasol _ whose brother Pau is not playing this time.

France coach Vincent Collet said his team is in a better shape than two years ago.

"We are in a completely different state of mind," Collet said.

Lithuania has long been a European basketball power, but was considered a bit of a long shot after getting eliminated in the quarterfinals at home two years ago.

But it proved the doubters wrong by beating Croatia 77-62 in the semifinal to reach its first final since winning its third title in 2003.

"We are proud of this team. When we started preparations many people were talking bad about us, they were saying that this team can do nothing here," Lithuania coach Jonas Kazlauskas said. "But now we have found our rhythm and we are in the final."

Lithuania likes a fast game, complemented by outside scorers Jonas Maciulis, Linas Kleiza and Mantas Kalnietis, who combined to outscore Croatia in the semifinal.

Center Jonas Valanciunas is a big presence under the basket.

"It is important for us, for our generation, now that most of the older guys have left the team, our generation has proved that we can play basketball and represent Lithuania, too," Maciulis said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Get Adobe Flash player
You Might Also Like
  • Argentina's Maxi Rodriguez, left, celebrates with goalkeeper Sergio Romero after scoring the decisive goal during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. Argentina beat the Netherlands 4-2 in a penalty shootout to reach the World Cup final. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

    Argentina beats Dutch in shootout to reach World Cup final

  • Washington Redskins safety Tanard Jackson speaks during a media availability after an NFL football training camp practice at Redskins Park, Friday, Aug. 3, 2012 in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Tanard Jackson suspended indefinitely by NFL — again

  • Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) looks to pass in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Monday, April 14, 2014, in Washington. The Wizards won 114-93. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Wizards’ Otto Porter, Glen Rice Jr. hoping for big splash on small stage

  • Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) is surrounded by fans that rushed the field and security as he is escorted off the field following their 45-38 win over Oklahoma in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

    SNYDER: RG3 worth his weight in bronze to Baylor

  • Baltimore Orioles' Manny Machado (13), celebrates his two-run homer with Adam Jones left, with Nick Markakis, at right, during the 11th inning of an interleague baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Monday, July 7, 2014, in Washington. The Orioles won 8-2, in 11 innings. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Accidental rivalry: Nats-Orioles doesn’t have much edge

  • Celebrities In The News
  • (Image from DeAngelo Williams' Facebook post)

    NFL star likely fooled by Marine impostor who accepted first-class plane ticket

  • ** FILE ** In this Oct. 1, 2013, file photo actor George Clooney attends the premiere of "Gravity" at the AMC Lincoln Square Theaters, in New York. George Clooney has chastised a British newspaper over an article claiming his fiancee's mother disapproves of the impending marriage for religious reasons. Clooney said that the claims about his future mother-in-law Baria Alamuddin were untrue and irresponsible. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

    Website apologizes for Clooney mother-in-law story

  • Kim Kardashian arrives at the NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment 2014 Upfront at the Javits Center on Thursday, May 15, 2014, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

    Kim Kardashian visits Jersey shore