Gasol, Spain fall short in EuroBasket semifinals

Marc Gasol’s quest to lead his Spanish National Team to a second consecutive EuroBasket championship fell short with a loss to Slovenia in the semifinals, but his work in the tournament isn’t done quite yet.

The Grizzlies’ star center still has a chance to return to Memphis with a bronze medal if Spain can get past Russia in Sunday’s consolation game in Turkey. It wasn’t the finish Gasol had planned, but Spain’s unbeaten run in the FIBA tournament ended with Thursday’s 20-point setback to Slovenia.

The quick turnaround to Sunday’s medal round matchup leaves no time to dwell on the semifinal loss.

“Of course, our ambitions don’t change,” Gasol said of trying to help Spain end EuroBasket on a winning note before he returns to Memphis for the start of NBA training camp. “It is a very difficult moment, but we have to cheer up quickly because we have another important game (Sunday).”

Spain had spent much of the tournament beating opponents by double figures – even in games during which Gasol and his teammates struggled at times on offense. But Slovenia flipped the script Thursday after Spain entered the semifinals on a run of 13 consecutive EuroBasket wins.

Despite a second consecutive double-double from Gasol, Slovenia cruised to victory with a standout perimeter performance that started when it made six of its first seven three-pointers in the first quarter. Slovenia drained four more threes in the second quarter and showed no signs of hitting a dry spell from beyond the arc, where it ended up making 14 of 25 attempts for the game.

Gasol, coming off of his best outing of the tournament in the quarterfinal win against Germany, started right back where he left off, scoring Spain’s first points of the game and grabbing two rebounds in just under the first two minutes of play. Defensively, Spain limited Slovenia’s inside game early, allowing only four points in the lane, but Slovenia’s shooting was just too lethal.

Slovenia stretched its four-point lead to 10 early in the second half and extend it to as much as 16 at the end of the third quarter. Spain switched to a zone defense to start the fourth quarter, but Slovenia answered with yet another three-pointer in the first thirty seconds to put the game out of reach.

Pau Gasol led all scorers with 16 points and six rebounds, and Marc Gasol contributed 12 point, a team-high 10 rebounds and six assists in the losing effort. Goran Dragic, the starting point guard for the NBA’s Miami Heat, scored seven of his 15 points in the fourth quarter for Slovenia, which advanced to the national team’s first ever appearance in the EuroBasket finals.

“Their attack was more consistent than our defense” Marc Gasol said of Slovenia’s untouchable offense. “We couldn’t get into the rhythm of the game. They controlled the tempo of the game.”