The 2011 EuroBasket tournament began bright and early Wednesday morning with a game featuring some of the NBA's best playing for Spain pitted against the Polish National Team, a team without a single NBA player due to Marcin Gortat's inability to acquire insurance.
Despite what the opening sentence might lead everyone to believe, however, the Spanish National Team needed Pau Gasol to score 29 points and former NBAer Juan Carlos Navarro to chip in another 23 -- including a clutch three-pointer late in the game -- as Spain defeated outmatched Poland by a final score of 83-78.
Navarro, nicknamed "La Bomba" for reasons probably relating to his shooting prowess and not the Ritchie Valens song with a similar title, pulled up for three on a fastbreak from Spain with 1:31 left to play to give his team a 77-69 advantage and the Spanish National Team was able to do just enough the rest of the way to stave off the upset.
Poland did give them a run for their money, however, as former Washington State standout and two-time Lakers' Summer League player Thomas Kelati scored 18 points and assisted on seven baskets despite battling foul trouble for the majority of the fourth quarter. The Polish team's leading scorer was Lukasz Koszarek, who scored seven of his 18 teams in the final two minutes as he desperately tried to keep Poland's hopes alive.
For Spain, Ricky Rubio was held to zero points and zero assists as the future of the Minnesota Timberwolves missed all five of his attempted five field goal attempts and turned the ball over twice in his 15 minutes of playing time. Other NBA-relevant scorers for Spain included Marc Gasol scoring 16 points, Serge Ibaka adding seven and Rudy Fernandez chipping in four.
In the rest of the morning's games, Serbia defeated Italy with an 80-68 final despite 22 points from the Toronto Raptors' Andre Bargnani; Montenegro eked out a victory over Macedonia; and Georgia beat Belgium thanks to 16 points from Zaza Pachulia.