Spain beats France despite 26 from Parker

Associated Press

KAUNAS, Lithuania — Juan Carlos Navarro stole the spotlight from what was supposed to be a big matchup between Pau Gasol and Tony Parker, leading Spain to it second straight European basketball championship.

Navarro scored 27 points to lead Spain to a 98-85 victory over France in the final on Sunday.

Parker scored 26 points for France but the Spurs star got little help and could not bring his team its first continental title. France came within six points in the third period but a 7-0 run keyed by a 3-pointer from Navarro restored Spain’s double-digit lead.

“They played great and we can learn a lot from that,” Parker said. “That’s where we want to be as a team. They’ve been together for more than six years and it makes a huge difference. … I know what it’s like after winning three titles with the San Antonio Spurs.”

“This is a historic team,” said Navarro, who is known in his homeland as “La Bomba” for his scoring ability. “We’ll see what are the limits of this selection (of players).”

Gasol chipped in with a double-double, adding 17 points and 10 rebounds for Spain, which became the first repeat champion since Yugoslavia in 1997.

“It’s a very sweet moment for (Spanish) basketball,” the Los Angeles Lakers star said.

Navarro’s performance followed a 35-point game in the semifinal win over Macedonia and earned him the MVP honors for the tournament.

The shooting guard spent a season in the NBA with the Memphis Grizzlies before returning to Barcelona in 2008.

“Navarro has been incredible, shooting very well and stepping up for us in the clutch,” Gasol said.

Another difference maker in the final was Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka, who had five blocks in a five-minute span in the second quarter when Spain built a 10-point lead that it never relinquished. Ibaka, a native of the Republic of Congo, was playing his first tournament for Spain after being granted citizenship in July.

“This was my destiny and I have achieved my dream,” Ibaka said. “I knew that we were going to win because we have a great team. It is my first year with the team and look! Yes sir, five blocks, that’s right man.”

Navarro also had five assists to lead a balanced Spanish effort. Guard Jose Calderon of the Toronto Raptors added 17 points while the Dallas Mavericks’ Rudy Fernandez had 14 and the Memphis Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol — Pau’s younger brother — scored 11.

“I am extremely proud of back-to-back titles because this was a high-quality championship,” Spain coach Sergio Scariolo said.

Both teams qualified for next year’s London Olympics by reaching the final.

Spain took control early and never allowed France to come close. With 10 blocks and 10 steals — four by Calderon — Spain scored 23 points off France’s 15 turnovers.

“No doubt it was the best team,” France coach Vincent Collet said. “We tried, for a long time we were not far but not very close either. Every time we got close they found a solution. … When you lose to a better team, there is not much to say.”

Boris Diaw of the Charlotte Bobcats had 12 points for France, Chicago Bulls star Joakim Noah had 11 and eight rebounds and Nicolas Batum finished with 10 points.

In the bronze-medal game, Aleksey Shved scored the last four points to give Russia a 72-68 victory over Macedonia. American-born guard Bo McCalebb led Macedonia with 22 points. Russia won the tournament in 2007, beating Spain in the final.

Parker, Navarro, McCalebb, Gasol and Andrei Kirilenko of Russia were picked as the top five players of the tournament.

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