You can call it a slow start and a defense-led comeback win by Spain over France in their quarterfinal match. Spain has now won the rights to face Russia in the semi-finals as France leaves London without any medal.
At the end of the first half, France led by three points after a low scoring first half between both teams. Spain scored 17 points in both quarters while France had 22 points in the first quarter and just 15 in the second quarter. If you do the Math, France led 37-34 at the end of the first 20 minutes of the game. Spain would then have to reevaluate their first half performance and in the third quarter there wasn’t much difference on the offensive end. However, defensively, Spain would show signs of shutting down France only allowing France to score 16 points in the third as Spain finished with 17 once again.
In the fourth quarter, Spain’s offense would still continue to fluster but their defense would be top-notch as they would finally take the lead for the first time (at 5:35 left in the game) since they had a one point lead with around half a quarter to play in the third. After a Serge Llull two handed dunk, Spain had the lead and the momentum. France would never be able to score until 5 seconds were left on the game clock. Spain’s offense wouldn’t be pretty as well as they would only go on to score 8 points with 5 minutes left in the game. Final score 66-59.
In the fourth quarter Spain would hold France to just 6 points with Tony Parker scoring 0 points in the final quarter. Parker would go 0 for 3 in the final quarter as he would painfully witness his team get smothered by Spain’s tough and lengthy defense led by the Gasol brothers who combined for 19 rebounds.
Before coming into the game, France had high hopes of pulling off an upset as France has been playing fantastic basketball ever since losing to USA in their opening game in the 2012 London Olympics. Through the first half of this game, France looked poised for an upset and was ready to set a date with Andrei Kirilenko and Russia. Unfortunately, the 2008 silver medalists Spain have Team USA on their mind and most of all a gold medal. To leave the Olympics without a medal is something Spain will never be able to accept. And despite not having a good offensive game play, they resorted to their defense and boy did it ever work.
Memphis Grizzlies big man Marc Gasol would lead the way for Spain with 14 points and would pull down 8 rebounds. Older brother Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers would chip in with a double double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Captain, guard, Juan Carlos Navarro would help out with 12 points and would grab 6 boards as well. Off the bench shot blocker Serge Ibaka would only score 4 points but would have 5 rebounds. Despite having close team stats from rebounds to turnovers, Spain’s defense and intensity on the defensive end would be the key to their victory which can’t be seen on the box score.
For France, San Antonio Spurs forward Boris Diaw would lead the way with 15 points and would still manage to grab 8 rebounds going up against two seven footers in the Gasol brothers. Fellow Spurs teammate and France captain, Tony Parker, would chip in with 15 points as well but would shoot 6 for 20 from the field. Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum would only score 9 points on 3 for 12 shooting. Off the bench Florence Pietrus, the brother of NBA free agent guard Mickael Pietrus, would pour in 10 point.
This win for Spain is something they must be both proud of and something they shouldn’t be happy about. Their defense was on target today but if they are to beat Russia in the next round or even Team USA, who is expected to be seen in the final round, Spain will still need some offense against these two teams and yes, defense wins championships, but defense is pointless if you can’t score.
With France eliminated, Spain will move on to face Russia in a rematch of an earlier pool play contest where Russia shocked Spain by beating them 77-74.
The semi-final game between Spain and Russia will tip off at 11:00 AM CT.