Argentina, which won the first FIBA World Championship way back in 1950, and Spain, the 2006 winners, will vie to be champions of the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
And although the United States – home of the world’s top league, the National Basketball Association – won’t be in the final, it was NBA-seasoned players who propelled the semifinal winners into the championship match.
In Beijing, Argentina got 28 points and 13 rebounds from Luis Scola to move past France, 80-66, into its first final since 2002. The Argentines were overwhelming better, they were just better, outscoring France by 3, 4, 5 and 2 points in each of the four quarters.
Forward Gabriel Deck had 13 off the bench and Facundo Campazzo added 12 for the winners, who shot only 40.9% for the game. But they held France to just 39.0% from the floor (and 7-31 from three-point land), and had 41 rebounds to France’s 36. (Boxscore)
French coach Vincent Collet commended the defense: “They deserve it. We used to say that aggressiveness is a main key, and tonight there was no aggressiveness from us. We couldn’t execute our plays. They put so much pressure on our guards, even bringing the ball up was difficult. We also missed free throws and gave them more offensive rebounds that allowed them to score.”
When the French got close, Argentina had an answer, especially Campazzo’s first-half buzzer-beating three-pointer which gave them a seven-point lead instead of just four.
In the fourth quarter, a 12-point Argentine lead shrunk to eight at 63-55 and 65-57, but two Scola three-pointers broadened the lead to 74-59 with 3:12 to go and the issue was decided.
The first semi was a double-overtime thriller, with NBA stars Marc Gasol leading Spain with 33 points and Patty Mills scoring 34 for Australia. (Boxscore)
The whole game was tight, with Spain leading 22-21 at the quarter, Australia leading 37-32 at halftime and 55-51 at the end of three quarter. But Gasol, who scored only four points in the first half, came on for 11 in the fourth quarter alone, plus two assists to get Spain in front, 71-70, with eight seconds to play. But Mills was founded and had two free throws to win it for Australia, but made only the first. On to overtime.
Gasol scored seven of Spain’s nine points in the extra period and Mills had five for Australia, but the tie remained, at 80-80. In the second overtime, Sergio Llull had a three-pointer for Spain to go up by 85-82, Gasol made a layup and Llull hit another three with 2:06 to go and a 90-82 lead and that was enough. Ricky Rubio hit four free throws in the final two minutes and Gasol added a jumper and the final margin was 95-88.
Besides Gasol’s 33, Rubio had 19 and Llull had 17, which shot 41.8%; after Mills’s 34, Nic Kay had 16 for Australia and Andrew Bogut had 12. The Aussies were held to 37.6% shooting by the Spanish, but had six more shot attempts than Spain and won the rebounding battle by 57-43. Australia tried 40 three-pointers (made just 10) to 37 for Spain (made 11).
The medal games will be played on Sunday. Australia is already assured of its highest finish ever, as it has never won a World Cup medal. France won the bronze in 2014, its only medal in World Cup play.