Spain has its revenge on France after losing to them in the quarterfinals of the 2014 FIBA World Cup, rallying for an 80-75 overtime win in the semifinals of EuroBasket 2015.
Pau Gasol scored half of Spain's total points, finishing with 40 to go with 11 rebounds and three blocks. He scored eight in a row to close the game in overtime and lead his squad to an automatic berth at the 2016 Rio Olympics. It was truly a sublime performance for the Bulls center.
France started the game better, led by former Spur Nando De Colo's seven first-quarter points. Spain was relying too heavily on Gasol for scoring until Sergio Rodriguez came off the bench to change the game. The former Trail Blazers and Kings guard gave Spain the jolt of energy it desperately needed to stay in the game.
The two teams tightened up on defense. Rudy Gobert started to own the boards and had a huge block on a Nikola Mirotic layup attempt.
Spain, meanwhile, controlled Parker and De Colo, but had trouble securing rebounds. The grudge match was close throughout the first half. At the break, France was up one, 33-32.
France finally managed to create separation in the third quarter. Spain's defense wasn't as sharp as it was in the first half and the offense was sloppy. France continued to control the boards and got some easy points off turnovers thanks to Nicolas Batum's anticipation. They led by eight points going into the final period.
But Gasol refused to let Spain lose. He single-handedly got Spain back into the game and scored six consecutive points to give his team the lead with under two minutes to go.
After a couple of misses by both teams, Rodriguez scored a layup to put Spain up three with 16 seconds to go. However, Nicolas Batum tied it at 66 right off the inbound.
Gasol's game-winning rolling hook was then stuffed by Gobert and the teams headed to overtime.
The game stayed close until Gasol took over in the final minute. France didn't have an answer for Gasol all night and that, along with poor free-throw shooting, cost them the game. They will have a last chance to earn their place in Rio next July in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
3 things we learned
1. Pau Gasol looks as good as ever
With Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka out of the tournament, Pau Gasol was Spain's only elite big man. He stepped up to the challenge of leading the team by playing through injury and making an impact on both ends. Gasol got to play center and provided rim protection and inside scoring for a team that desperately needed both.
In the semis, he owned the paint despite going against the high-flying Gobert and was instrumental in rallying the troops after a bad third quarter. Spain is in the Olympics because the Bulls star was at his best in Eurobasket.
Parker is a four-time NBA champion, the all-time leading scorer in Eurobasket history and the most accomplished player on France's roster. In this tournament, however, he has been mediocre. Parker averaged 12 points and four assists in the tournament but only shot 40 percent from the floor.
Against Spain, he really struggled to get to the lane and couldn't convert when he did, finishing the game 4-for-17 from the field. At the end of the game, he was supposed to take over but was nowhere to be found. For France to make it to the Olympics, Parker will have to play much better.
Spurs fans should also be worried. They need Parker at his best to achieve their championship dreams, and he looked far from that in this tournament.
3. This rivalry is the best thing to happen to international basketball
Since the U.S. regained its rightful spot as the premier basketball superpower, international hoops have often lacked excitement. Spain was a step above the competition, but not close to the level of Team USA. Now France has stepped up and challenged Spain's European domination, creating a great rivalry in the process.
Let's hope France makes it to Rio so that we can get another chance to see these talented teams that do not like each other battle again at full force.