France top Lithuania, win 1st basketball title
By Nesha Starcevic ,APLJUBLJANA, Slovenia -- Tony Parker finally has an international title to go with his three NBA rings — although it was his France teammates who stole the spotlight in the European championship final.
September 24, 2013, 12:17 am TWN
With Parker having a quiet game for once, Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw provided the scoring as France won its first major basketball title by beating Lithuania 80-66 on Sunday.
It was a victory that ended a decade of frustration for Parker and a talented French generation, which lost the final against Spain two years ago and took bronze in 2005.
“It's been an unbelievable journey chasing this title,” Parker said. “I would change nothing.”
The San Antonio Spurs guard led France to the under-18 world championship title in 2000, and said he made a promise back then that he would give the senior team its first international success as well.
Thirteen years later, it's mission accomplished.
“I went to everyone's room last night in the hotel and I told them that there was no way we were going to lose this game,” Parker said.
France broke open a close game by finishing the third quarter with a 14-0 run that kept Lithuania scoreless for four minutes. The French lead grew to 22 points with three minutes remaining in the third and Lithuania never came close to a comeback.
Batum had 17 points and Diaw added 15, while Linas Kleiza led Lithuania with 20.
Parker finished with 12 points, after scoring just four through the first three quarters. But his scoring and leadership during the run to the final — including 32 points against defending champion Spain in the semifinals — earned him the tournament MVP award.
“We had a perfect plan, the coach said they would double-team me and that I had to trust my teammates and not to worry if I don't score much,” Parker said.
After finally capturing that elusive gold — in France's record 36th appearance in the tournament — Parker led the French team into the stands to celebrate with their fans after the final buzzer.
Spain beat Croatia 92-66 earlier Sunday to earn the bronze medal.
Guard Antoine Diot all but secured France's victory with a 3-pointer at the buzzer of the third quarter, after a Lithuania turnover gave France the possession with 0.9 seconds left.
Diaw threw the ball to Diot, who nailed a 3 that was upheld after the referees viewed the video to make sure he had beaten the clock.
Batum finished the first half with 17 points, shooting 6-for-7 from the field and making three of four 3-pointers.
Diaw took over in the third, scoring 11 points on drives to the basket and outside shots.
“We didn't do a bad job defending Parker, but we forgot about the others,” Lithuania coach Jonas Kazlauskas said.
France coach Vincent Collet said his team had learned from the times it came up short in the past.
“It wasn't the easiest way, but we improved starting with the quarterfinals. It's the 36th Euro for France and the first title, you can imagine how we feel,” Collet said.