Spaniards beat Russia to reach men's hoop final

LONDON: Pau Gasol scored 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead reigning European champion Spain into the Olympic men's basketball gold medal game with a 67-59 victory over Russia on Friday.

The Spaniards will play for the championship on Sunday against the winner of a later semi-final between the defending champion United States team of NBA stars and 2004 Olympic gold medallist Argentina.

Jose Calderon added 14 points for Spain while Sasha Kaun led Russia with 14 points.

Calderon's 3-pointer with 7:22 to play gave Spain a 51-49 lead, the first Spanish edge since 4-2 in the opening moments. Sergio Llull followed with a fast-break layup and Marc Gasol added a hook shot to give Spain a 55-49 lead.

Calderon added another 3-pointer and Felipe Reyes hit a baseline jumper to cap a 14-1 Spanish run for a 60-50 lead with 4:27 to play.

Russia stayed close but Pau Gasol's fast break slam dunk with 89 seconds remaining boosted Spain's lead to 66-56 and sealed Russia's fate.

The Russians led 31-20 at half-time, a much different start than when the same two teams met in a preliminary game won by Russia in which Spain had taken a 20-2 lead in the first six minutes.

The Russians, who have the top defence in the Olympics with foes hitting only 40 percent of their shots, dominated the first half, Spain connecting on only 6-of-29 shots in the first half.

But Spain opened and closed the third quarter with 8-2 runs to pull level at 46-46 on a Calderon 3-pointer at the period-ending buzzer, setting up a tension-packed finish.

Vitaliy Fridzon hit a 3-pointer nine seconds before the end of the first quarter to give Russia a 12-9 lead after the period, in which Russia made only 5-of-18 shots from the field but held Spain to just a 3-of-15 accuracy rate.

Fridzon's basket launched a 18-5 Russian run that produced a 27-14 lead with 4:39 to play in the second quarter.

Russian captain Sergey Monya sank three 3-pointers in the span, including back-to-back shots from beyond the arc to conclude the streak.





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