Spain stagger into Eurobasket quarter finals

Italy stunned two-time reigning champions Spain on Monday but Spain's national team still has a chance to redeem itself in a tough quarter-final match-up with top seed Serbia on Wednesday at the 2013 European Championships.

Spain stagger into Eurobasket quarter finals
Andrea Cinciarini of Italy (L) vies with Jose Calderun of Spain during Italy and Spain's Eurobasket second round qualification match on Monday. Photo: Andrej Isakovic/AFP

Alessandro Gentile poured in 25 points and Marco Belinelli of the Chicago Bulls collected 16 points and eight rebounds in Italy's 86-81 overtime defeat of Spain.

"We went against the best team in the European Championship. We already knew how tough this game would be. But we deserved this win. We never gave up," said Italian guard Pietro Aradori, who scored 17 points in helping Italy take third in Group F with a 3-2 record.

In the final eight, the Italians — looking for their first medal since 2003 bronze  — will face off against Lithuania on Thursday.

Spain wasted a 32-point, 10-rebound showing from Marc Gasol in dropping their third game of the tournament and finishing fourth in the group at 2-3.

"I thought that we had the game under control for the first three quarters. We were playing good defence and we were able to run and get easy shots. But then in the fourth quarter… we stepped down defensively and couldn't get back into the game," said the Memphis Grizzlies center.

Spain's quarter-finals opponent Wednesday will be Group E winners Serbia.    

Spain came into the day wondering if they would even have a chance to defend their last two titles and still become the first nation to three-peat since Yugoslavia in 1977.

The winner between Spain and Serbia will take on the winners of Wednesday's other quarter between hosts Slovenia and France.

Slovenia finished the group stage on a sour note, losing against Finland 92-76 in a hard fought game — though Slovenia knew beforehand that they were placed second in the group and Finland eliminated.

Bostjan Nachbar paced the Slovenians with 15 points but that wasn't enough as they dropped to 3-2.

Finland, who received 17 points from Gerald Lee, showed a last bit of fight in improving to 2-3 and finished fifth — ahead of Greece.

Needing a victory of their own and a Spain defeat to reach the knockout stage, the Greeks gave Croatia all they could handle but lost in double overtime 92-88.

Bojan Bogdanovic tallied 22 points while Ante Tomic collected 15 points and 12 rebounds as Croatia took Group F honours with a 4-1 record and will face Ukraine in the final eight.

"We are here for the quarter-final game, knowing that Croatia have not played past the quarter-finals in a long time. We are determined to do that. I'm sure we will," said Croatia coach Jasmin Repesa.

The Greeks, considered with a puncher's chance at a podium finish, finished 1-4 despite Yannis Bourousis scoring 21 points and Vassilis Spanoulis hitting for 18 points.

EuroBasket 2013 takes a day off on Tuesday and will resume on Wednesday with the Serbia-Spain and Slovenia-France quarter-finals.

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Spain’s greatest-ever basketball player Pau Gasol retires

Double NBA winner and Europe's most successful basketballer Pau Gasol said on Tuesday he had made the "difficult decision" to retire, but at 41 was at ease with his choice.

Spain's greatest-ever basketball player Pau Gasol retires
Spanish player Pau Gasol Saez attends a press conference to announce his retirement, at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, on October 5, 2021. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)

Gasol, the older brother of recently-released Memphis Grizzlies centre Marc Gasol, won the competition in 2009 and 2010 during his time at the Los Angeles Lakers.

Two years ago, he suffered a foot injury which threatened to end his career earlier than planned.

“It is a difficult decision. As you can imagine, it is difficult, after so many years, but it is a considered decision, you have to change gear a little, and know how to enjoy it,” ex-centre Gasol told reporters at a press conference in Barcelona.

“I wanted to end up playing and enjoying myself, not on crutches and with operations,” he added.

He was a six-time NBA All-Star after being named the league’s Rookie of the Year in 2002 and won his two NBA crowns alongside Kobe Bryant.

Gasol emotionally paid tribute to former Lakers team-mate Bryant, who died in January 2020 in a helicopter crash.

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 12: Pau Gasol #16 and Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrate a play in the second quarter while taking on the Denver Nuggets in Game Seven of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 12, 2012 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.   Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by KEVORK DJANSEZIAN / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)
Los Angeles Lakers stars Gasol and Bryant celebrate a play during the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Photo: KEVORK DJANSEZIAN/AFP

“One last word for my friend Kobe Bryant. I would have really liked for him to be here, but it’s not possible,” Gasol said with tears in his eyes.

“Life isn’t fair some times. He taught me how to be a better player, a better leader, I always considered him as a big brother,” he added.

‘The Golden Kids’

For Spain, Gasol, who also had spells with the Grizzlies, the Chicago Bulls, the San Antonio Spurs and the Milwaukee Bucks, claimed two Olympic silver medals and a bronze as well as three EuroBasket crowns.

He was the leader of his country’s generation nicknamed ‘The Golden Kids’ as he led a side including his sibling as well as former Grizzlies shooting guard Juan Carlos Navarro and ex-Portland TrailBlazers small forward Rudy Fernandez to the 2006 FIBA World Cup.

(L-R) Pau Gasol, Rudy Fernandez, Marc Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro react as Spain wins the gold medal of the Eurobasket 2011 in Kaunas on September 18, 2011. Spain defeated France 98-85. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI (Photo by JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP)
(L-R) Pau Gasol, Rudy Fernandez, Marc Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro react as Spain wins the gold medal of the Eurobasket 2011 in Kaunas on September 18, 2011. Spain defeated France 98-85. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI (Photo by JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP)

The Catalan, standing at 2.16m, is among the continent’s greatest players in the NBA along with German Dirk Nowitzki, Croatian Drazen Petrovic, the “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo and Frenchman Tony Parker, who he passed as EuroBasket’s leading scorer in 2017.

His last international appearance came at this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo during the quarter-final defeat to the USA.

He finished his club career with a Liga ACB title in Spain in June while with hometown club Barcelona but failed to clinch the EuroLeague.

“I am thankful to all. Having won one more league with Barca,” he said.

Gasol said he did not want to become a coach but indicated that his future still lay within the game he has graced for over 20 years. “Consultant or director… We’ll see. I’ve already started to speak with many NBA teams,” he said.