Behind the leadership and play of Pau Gasol, Spain has won its second consecutive European basketball championship title. Spain faced off against Lithuania this past Sunday in front of a record-breaking crowd of 27,372 at Stade Pierre-Mauroy stadium in Lille, France and cruised to a 80-63 victory.

Spain came into the tournament missing big names off their roster like Oklahoma City Thunder’s Serge Ibaka, Memphis Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ own Ricky Rubio.

On Saturday, Sept. 12, the first games of the round of 16 commenced. Spain was set to take on Poland, which included NBA veteran and current Washington Wizard Marcin Gortat. Spain and Poland battled for the majority of the game, with Poland holding the lead heading into the final minutes of the third.

That would change quickly as Spain’s Nikola Mirotic converted an “and-one” play which started the scoring run by Spain. Sergio Llull followed Mirotic by scoring on two consecutive possessions. Spain did not stop there as they connected on two consecutive three point shots off the hands of Sergio Rodriguez and Gasol to make it a 12-2 run and give Spain a 69-57 lead. Behind Gasol’s 30 points, where he connected for six of seven three pointers, Spain would cruise the rest of the way to pick up the win.

Spain advanced to the quarterfinals where they had a meeting with a tough Greece team. Greece gave Spain the most trouble as they led for the majority of the game. Spain entered the fourth quarter down by only two. Spain decided to attack the paint for the remaining minutes of the game as they were able to draw four fouls in the first minute of the quarter. Greece was only able to add three points in the first seven minutes. Spain was able to squeeze by Greece 73-71, as Giannis Antetokounmpo missed on an open shot to win the game. Gasol lead the Spaniards with 27 points and nine rebounds.

Next on the list for Spain was the star-studded France team that included players like Tony Parker, Evan Fournier, Boris Diaw, Rudy Gobert and Nicolas Batum, all of whom play for an NBA club. France knocked down a clutch three-pointer with 13 seconds remaining in the game, forcing the game into overtime tied at 66. But with 18 seconds remaining, Gasol slammed down a powerful put-back dunk to give Spain a 78-75 lead. France had one shot at a comeback after Batum was fouled at the three-point arc, but failed to make one free throw. Gasol grabbed the rebound and dunked it home for his 40th point of the game, which marked an international career-high.

Spain had one more team to defeat on its way to the gold. Lithuania shocked many as they beat Serbia, who was undefeated up until that point. The final matchup was ready as Gasol was set to lead his team against Lithuania.

Spain was in the driver’s seat from the get-go, as they started the game with a 15-4 lead after a Gasol dunk. Spain continued to show its offensive prowess as they kept the buckets coming. Spain would increase their lead to 16 in the second quarter. Lithuania would battle back into the game, cutting the lead down by eight at the end of the half.

Spain dominated in the first half and continued in the second half to take control of the game. With less than six minutes remaining in the third, Spain would go on an 11-2 run that increased Spain’s lead to 20 as they led 53-35. Spain would never allow the lead to drop to single digits for the remaining of the game.

Gasol finished the game with 25 points and 12 rebounds to lead Spain to its third European trophy in the last four championships. Gasol was awarded tournament MVP for his play throughout the tournament. “It’s of special significance to play this well at this stage of my career after all I’ve accomplished,” said Gasol in a statement to ESPN. With this victory, Spain has clinched a spot in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and looks to be the United States’ toughest competitor.


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