Gasol drives battling Spain into Basketball World Cup final

Marc Gasol of Spain places a jump-shot over Australian players, from left, Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills and Joe Ingles, during the FIBA Basketball World Cup semifinal at the Cadillac Arena in Beijing. (AP Photo)
Updated 13 September 2019

Gasol drives battling Spain into Basketball World Cup final

  • Gasol, the Toronto Raptors center, finished with 33 points, six rebounds and four assists after stepping up late in a breathtaking game when his country needed him most
  • The Spaniard played a key role in the Raptors’ historic run to the NBA crown and knows that victory on Sunday will cap the perfect season

BEIJING: NBA champion Marc Gasol saved Spain on Friday as they battled back to beat Australia 95-88 after a second overtime period and reach the Basketball World Cup final.
They will face Argentina, who accounted for France in the other semi, in Sunday’s decider in Beijing.
A thrilling semifinal was 71-71 at the end of regulation time and the two sides could not be separated at the end of a nervy first overtime.
Finally, the 2006 world champions Spain jubilantly emerged after the Boomers appeared to run out of juice.
Sergio Llull hit two three-pointers in the second overtime for Spain to cap their comeback.
Gasol, the Toronto Raptors center, finished with 33 points, six rebounds and four assists after stepping up late in a breathtaking game when his country needed him most.
“We came back, we stuck together through tough times, that means a lot,” said the 34-year-old, a three-time NBA All-Star.
The Spaniard played a key role in the Raptors’ historic run to the NBA crown and knows that victory on Sunday will cap the perfect season.
“It’s been great, I have been very fortunate,” he said.
“I knew that it would not be easy physically (going from the NBA Finals to the World Cup) but it’s definitely worth it.
“Not because of the final but passing along those values to the team. It’s our turn to pass on the legacy to the next generation (of the Spain team).”
Ricky Rubio was also pivotal once more for Spain with 19 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and four steals.
Red-hot Patty Mills was unfortunate to be on the losing side, leading Australia with 34 points.
The Australians, who had never gone beyond the quarter-finals in 11 previous World Cups, had the whiff of revenge in their nostrils — and a first final.
Spain edged the Boomers 89-88 in the bronze-medal match at the Rio 2016 Olympics and the Australians had waited three long years to get their own back.
In San Antonio Spurs livewire Mills they had one of the players of the World Cup and his three-pointer midway through the second quarter put Australia 27-22 in front.
The in-form guard pulled off the same trick with 88 seconds left on the clock in the second quarter to give Australia a 37-32 advantage at the break.
But Spain slashed the lead to four points going into the fourth quarter and then just two points with 3:44 left.
Spain were just one point behind with 28 seconds to run and they had the momentum. Gasol, nerves of steel, nailed two free throws to put Spain up 71-70.
Mills then made one free throw with four seconds left but missed the other and the match was level at the end of regulation time.
Despite the crushing disappointment, Australia will need to raise themselves for Sunday’s bronze-medal match and this is still their best World Cup performance.
Coach Andrej Lemanis called it “a hell of a game of basketball and fun to be involved with.”
“Tough to lose, no doubt, it comes down to a couple of plays here and there,” he said.
“At the end of the day, we had chances to win the game, we had every opportunity to win the game.”


Spanish striker David Villa set to retire from Japan club

Updated 57 min 31 sec ago

Spanish striker David Villa set to retire from Japan club

  • Villa scored 59 goals in 98 appearances for Spain from 2004-17, including five goals at the 2010 World Cup
  • Before signing with Kobe, Villa played at Valencia, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid before spending four seasons with New York City FC
KOBE, Japan: Spanish striker David Villa says he will retire from Japanese club Vissel Kobe next year, ending the career of Spain’s top scorer in international play.
The 37-year-old Villa, who joined Kobe last December, said he plans to retire after the season ends in January.

“It’s better to leave football before football leaves me,” he told a news conference speaking in Spanish. “I’ve been thinking for several years — when you reach 33, 34 or 35 — the moment can arrive at any time in a game, in training, or with an injury.”

Villa scored 59 goals in 98 appearances for Spain from 2004-17, including five goals at the 2010 World Cup as his nation won the title for the first time.
He scored four goals for Spain en route to the 2008 European Championship title.

Before signing with Kobe, Villa played at Valencia, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid before spending four seasons with New York City FC, scoring 80 goals in 124 MLS appearances.

“It’s a decision I’ve thought about a lot,” he said. “I spoke about this with the people who care about me, with my family, and the people who have been with me for my whole career.”

Villa repeated several times that it was not a knee-jerk reaction. He scored 12 goals this season for Kobe, a decent scoring output for a struggling club. But he said he knew the retirement time was near.

He was asked about the quality of play in Japan and was laudatory.

“I was surprised at the level of play in the J-League,” he said. “Not only in terms of the veteran players here, but the young players here that have enormous potential. It’s not that I was expecting less. I was expecting a top league, but it surpassed by expectations.”

Villa has also mentioned his interest being an investor in a new club based in the New York area — Queensboro FC, which will play in the second tier of American soccer.

“Queens always showed love to me and my family while we were in New York,” he wrote on Twitter. He said it was “a dream to build” a new professional team.