Spain defeated France 98-85 in the EuroBasket final in Kaunas on Sunday night to lift the title for the second successive time.

Barcelona guard Juan Carlos Navarro, named as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, hit a game-high 27 points as the defending champions steadily accelerated clear after leading 50-41 at half-time, eventually surging as much as 16 in front in the fourth quarter.

Pau Gasol added 17 points for the Spaniards while his fellow NBA star Tony Parker had 25 for France, who will join their conquerors at next year’s Olympic Games in London.

But despite the efforts of the San Antonio Spurs guard, Les Bleus simply lacked the impetus they had shown over much of the past fortnight, unable to make shots at key moments and digging too great a hole to extract themselves from.

Spain, as so often, were relentless. “There’s a motivation,” said Marc Gasol. “I don’t think it’s pressure. Nobody here feels much pressure. When they say you’re the best you have to prove it. You have to work from day one and keep getting better. When we started in Panevezys, we worked hard and here we are now.”

Four times in the first period, they led but a 9-2 was to put Sergio Scariolo’s men ahead for good as Navarro embarked on his personal blitz.

France battled but came up short (FIBAE photos)

Up 25-20 at the start of the second, Serge Ibaka delivered blocks on consecutive French offenses – and another three in rapid train – and it seemed like the French were duly intimidated.

Mickael Gelabale and Parker drained consecutive threes to cut the gap to 29-26 but it was as close as their team came.

Navarro started and finished a 9-0 burst and although France hit seven consecutive points just before the break, the momentum refused to swing.

As their shots began to err widely, Spain focused simply on asserting their dominance at both ends. Marc Gasol capped a 7-0 spurt which increased their cushion to 67-54 midway through the third and when Victor Sada slammed in an alley-oop, it put his team 75-62 with ten minutes to go.

When Pau Gasol hit a three pointer with 6:55 to go, he looked up into the red-clad hordes. 84-68 in front, there was a sense of the inevitable. Joakim Noah and Mickael Pietrus fouled out late on but the final had already passed France by.

And when Navarro hit his final basket before leaving to a standing ovation, he punched the air.

France was on the canvas. Spain, the heavyweights again, were just too powerful and too strong as once ahead they left the court with gold souvenirs hanging from their necks and with captain Felipe Reyes raising the trophy aloft as Lithuania, the gracious hosts, saluted the champions.

“This makes it all worthwhile,” said Pau Gasol. “We took things every day, we retained the ambition and kept our hunger and here we are.”

France can, and will, learn from this experience. This was not to be their day. Spain were just too good.

“They were all simply exceptional,” praised forward Kevin Seraphin, who confirmed after the final that he has agreed a contract to play in Spain with Caja Laboral Vitoria during the NBA lockout.

“We were well beaten but I’m convinced that we’ve made progress. At the end of the game, Tony (Parker) told us that this wasn’t over. We have revenge to take.”

They will get their chance. But Spain remains the benchmark of European basketball, champions and kings of all they survey.

All Tournament Team: Tony Parker, Bo McCalebb, Juan Carlos Navarro, Andrei Kirilenko, Pau Gasol


2047: SPAIN ARE THE EUROBASKET CHAMPIONS. Juan Carlos Navarro receives a standing ovation with 27 points. Pau Gasol has 17 points and 10 rebounds. Tony Parker leads France with 25.

2045: The benches are being run with 1:09 left. Spain up 94-80. The party has officially begun in Kaunas.

2043: JC Navarro hits an off-balance jumper, and punches air. Spain are going to repeat. Lead 92-77 with 2:12 left.

2040: You know it’s not going to be your night when Jose Calderon is dunking. 89-75 3:25 left. Un Miracle required as the chants of ‘Allez Les Bleus’ get a little desperate.

2037: Florent Pietrus fouls out with 5:35 to go with 4 pt and 2 reb. Death nail? Worse news for France? Navarro’s back – 84-72.

2031: Pau Gasol hits a three to put Spain 84-68 with 6:31 to go. He looks at crowd as if to say ‘Let the fiesta begin’

2028: France call time out with 8:50 to go after Victor Sada makes it 79-64 to Spain – biggest lead of the game. It’s almost impossible to see how France can turn this around. They just lack options offensively tonight.

2024: Victor Sada makes an alley-oop which gives Spain a 75-62 lead over France at the End of the 3rd.

2020: Ricky Rubio has 1 assist, 1 rebound and 1 turnover. TWolves GM David Kahn is here. Wonder what he’s thinking…

2019: After 7-0 run, Navarro now has 22 to put Spain up 69-56 with 2:50 left. Equals biggest lead. France only just hanging on.

2014: Noah blocks Pau. Gelebale hits 3. Then Noah scores to cut the Spanish lead to 60-54 with 4:59 left in 3rd

2013: Pau Gasol dunks it in to make it 60-49 with 6:12 left in 3rd. French time out.

2003: 2nd half under way. Fernandez gets lucky inside to make it 56-43 with 8:42 left in 3rd. Biggest lead. Calerdon/Pietrus get Td.

2000: Arvydas Sabonis on court handing over host duties to Rasho Nesterovic of Slovenia 2013. Here’s how big an influence Sabas has had in this country

1947: Spain 50-41 France HALF-TIME (Navarro 13 – Parker 14). From 2-pt range, Spain shooting 73.7%, France 39.1%. Ibaka has been the real momentum shifter by disrupting the French penetration. Still a long way to go though.

1941:Rudy attempts to decapitate Parker on drive to basket. Unsportsmanlike foul called. He also gets a technical for verbal. DeColo makes 2/2, then Batum hits 3, then a breakaway dunk to cut gap to 46-41 with 1:05 left.

1937: Rudy scores off an OR following Ibaka’s miss. 44-33 with 3 mins left in 2nd. France seem to have lost focus defensively.

1933: Serge Ibaka is on course to have enough blocks to build a house by the end of this game. 5 in this qtr so far. Navarro opens lead to 38-26 with 6:18 to go until the half.

1930: Pau Gasol finishes an alley-oop to extend Spain’s lead to 36-26 with 6:40 left in 2nd. Fra shooting 50% Spain 66%

1928: Back to back threes from Gelabale and Parker cut the gap to 29-26.

1924: Serge Ibaka blocks De Colo and Seraphin on consecutive offenses. He then hits 2/2 to put Spain up 29-20 with 8:48 to go in 2nd

1923: Tony Parker’s elbow smacks Ricky Rubio in the eye. If I was France, I’d want Ricky on court and not Calderon.

1918: Parker, Marc and Batum all hit threes. Spain 25-20 France END 1st quarter. (Navarro 8 – Parker 9)

1913: 9-2 run, capped by a block then a score from Marc, puts Spain up 17-12 with 3:12 left in 1st. France call time-out

1910: Nando de Colo checks in. Spain 13-10 with 4:32 left in 1st with Calderon on 5.

1906: Spain 7-8 France with 6:23 left in 1st. French getting four early baskets inside.

1900: Chants of ‘Lietuva’ reverberate around the Zalgiris Arena.

1858: Prince Felipe of Spain is in the house. The national anthems are over. Only one gets a repeat at the end of the game.

1857: Starters – Spain: Calderon, Navarro, Fernandez, Marc and Pau Gasol. France: Parker, Pietrus, Diaw, Batum, Noah

1855 UK: Welcome to the EuroBasket final, we’ll be live blogging on the game or you can follow on our Twitter.

3rd place play-off. Russia 72 Macedonia 68

Macedonia had an amazing run at EuroBasket. In a bid to earn a historic first medal in the country’s history, they came up just short.

Still, they will leave Lithuania with immense credit – and a spot at the Olympic qualifying tournament despite losing 72-68 to Russia in the bronze medal play-off.

The drama, however, was only complete when Damjan Stojanovski blew an open lay-up with seven seconds remaining, allowing Aleksey Shved to complete the win from the foul line.

“This is the end of a fairytale,” said Macedonia’s Predrag Samardziski. “We fought hard the whole tournament. We wanted to finish with a medal around our neck. Every Macedonian knows we are all proud of what we have achieved.

“We hope that in two years’ time, we can take another step forward. Now people know who we are.”

Up 36-30 at half-time, the Russians extended their advantage to 45-35 in the third. But Macedonia held their rivals a to just five points in five minutes as Bo McCalebb ignited a 15-5 run which leveled the tie.

With Andrei Kirilenko and Timofey Mozgov each on four fouls early in the fourth, Macedonia applied the pressure but there was little to separate the sides.

Level at 68-68 in the final minute, Sergey Bykov scored what was ultimately the decisive basket as Stojanovski was left to rue his miss.

“I was planning on winning this game,” said Russian coach David Blatt. “Not because I disrespected Macedonia, which I respect greatly, not because I was over-confident but because I knew in my heart that the path that we followed in this tournament was so correct, so true, that only a good result could end this story.

“My players were so dedicated to the goal. they were happy to be together and play together.”

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