GRANADA, Spain (AP) - Pau Gasol scored 20 points as Spain routed Serbia 89-73 to finish the group phase of the Basketball World Cup undefeated on Thursday and remain the United States’ biggest challenger.
The new Chicago Bull center helped to ensure the game was effectively over by halftime with 14 first-half points to power the hosts to an insurmountable 19-point lead.
Spain drew the toughest group with European champion France, a Brazil with three NBA centers, and traditional power Serbia.
But future rivals beware: Brazil fell by 19 points, France by 24, and Serbia was down by double digits after just eight minutes.
Juan Carlos Navarro chipped 15 points for Spain, while substitute Nemanja Bjelica hit five 3-pointers to lead Serbia with 19 points.
Spain is so finely tuned it didn’t seem frivolous in the least when Ricky Rubio dribbled the ball between the legs of center Miroslav Raduljica before assisting Jose Calderon on his second of consecutive 3-pointers to grow the lead to 48-33 late in the second quarter.
The game’s end turned testy when Serbia coach Sasha Djordjevic was given two technical fouls and sent off under a minute left. Spain coach Juan Orenga and Rubio also got techinicals.
Spain had already clinched first place in Group A, pairing it with Senegal in the round of 16 starting Saturday.
“My players are prepared,” said Orenga. “With Senegal begins the do-or-die.”
While Spain heads to Madrid, the U.S. trades Bilbao for Barcelona to play an elimination game with Mexico after James Harden scored 17 points in a 95-71 victory over Ukraine as the Americans also finished 5-0 to top Group C.
In Seville, Greece hit the boards and beat Argentina 79-71 to win Group B with an immaculate record.
The Greeks outrebounded Argentina 41-25 and never trailed after the opening stages as Memphis Grizzlies guard Nick Calathes scored 18 points.
Greece will play Serbia next in Madrid, where Argentina (3-2) gets South American rival Brazil (4-1).
Lithuania snatched away the top spot in Group D with a 67-64 win over Slovenia in Gran Canaria.
Lithuania (4-1) held Slovenia (4-1) scoreless for the entire fourth quarter until Goran Dragic scored with 47 seconds to go. The Phoenix Sun guard went five-of-14 from the field, missing all five 3-pointers he took, to finish with 12 points.