Spain down Lithuania in convincing fashion to be crowned 2015 FIBA Eurobasket Champions
After settling for a bronze in the 2013 edition of the EuroBasket, Spain bounced back strongly to claim the title in 2015. In front of an all time record crowd of 27,372 at the Pierre Mauroy Stadium in Lille, Spain defeated Lithuania 80-63 behind tournament Most Valuable Player (MVP) Pau Gasol’s 25 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists.
Prior to the championship game, irrespective of the results both teams had already booked a spot to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
While winning the tournament was a redemption of sorts for the Spanish players, it was also a successful turnaround after losing two of their first three games of this competition. It must not be forgotten that the Spanish team dominated the second half of the tournament despite missing key players such as Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Juan Carlos Navarro and Ricky Rubio.
"It's of special significance to play this well at this stage of my career after all I've accomplished," said Gasol, the 35-year-old Chicago Bulls center who has two NBA championship rings with the Los Angeles Lakers. "It is something I will remember until the end of my life."
Finishing runners-up in this edition of the EuroBasket meant back to back silver medals for Lithuania after they had lost to France in the 2013 EuroBasket Final. Center for NBA franchise the Toronto Raptors, Jonas Valanciunas was the top performer for Lithuania with 10 points, 9 rebounds and 2 assists.
Spain led throughout the game winning the first quarter 19-8 and the third quarter 19-10, allowing them to keep command of the proceedings. Credit must be given to their defense which did offer too many open looks to the Lithuanians. To make matters worse, Lithuania shot poorly from every part of the floor: 35% from the field, 59% from the free throw line and 32% from beyond the arc.
Host nation France was not scheduled for action in the Finals, nonetheless they were to take the court one last time in front of their home fans for the Bronze medal match. Beating Serbia comfortably 81-68, France wrapped up their 2015 EuroBasket campaign with a win. Nando de Colo finished with 20 points while Rudy Gobert, center for NBA franchise the Utah Jazz finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds.
"This is not what we came here for but it's always good to finish with a win," de Colo said.
Both teams Serbia and France will participate in the 12 team Olympic qualifier next year.
At the end of the presentation ceremony, the tournament’s All-Star Five were announced which included Spain’s Pau Gasol and point guard Sergio Rodriguez, French point guard Nando de Colo, Lithuanian nationals Jonas Valanciunas and Jonas Maciulis.
Here are the highlights from the gold medal game at the 2015 EuroBasket: