Spain is headed to the FIBA World Cup finals for the first time since 2006 after defeating Australia 95-88 in a thrilling, double-overtime game in the semifinal round. It will face Argentina, which is making its first World Cup final appearance in 17 years, on Sunday.
Toronto Raptors center Marc Gasol was the star in Spain's victory, scoring 33 points on 11-for-19 shooting while also posting six rebounds, four assists and two blocks. He sent the game into double-overtime by drawing a foul with four seconds left in the first OT and sinking a pair of free throws. Overall, Gasol carried Spain in the extra frames, scoring seven in the first OT and four more in double-OT.
Spain trailed for much of the game but surged in the fourth quarter and took the lead 71-70 when Gasol hit two free throws with 8.7 seconds to play in regulation.
The game was nearly decided when Australia's Patty Mills stepped to the line with 4 seconds left and his team trailing, 71-70. Mills, a standout for the San Antonio Spurs, made the first free throw before missing the second. His miss was rebounded by Spanish guard Ricky Rubio, who tossed up a desperation shot from halfcourt that rimmed out.
Sergio Llull stepped up in double-OT as well, nailing a pair of critical 3-pointers (and scored 17 points overall) to help Spain prevail. He also played stellar defense on Mills when coach Sergio Scariolo went with box-and-one late in the game.
Patty Mills scored 32 to lead Australia.
Gasol won the NBA title a few months ago with the Raptors. And now he can do the double by winning with Spain, which won this title 13 years ago when it was called the world championship.
What would gold mean?
“Let’s talk about it Sunday,” replied Gasol, who played on the 2006 team with his brother Pau and current team member Rudy Fernandez. “Let’s see how it goes. I don’t want to lose a second thinking of what would be, what it would mean for us.”
He said his attention is on detail and preparing. Not celebrating. Not yet.
“Whenever the game is over, life will go on either way,” he said.
Australia will try again for a bronze medal in a major men’s basketball championship. The Boomers are 0-4 in third-place games in the Olympics -- including three years ago in Rio de Janeiro -- and had never reached the semifinals of the World Cup.
“The experience that we had in Rio -- what it felt like to finish fourth. I have the confidence that this group will be able to be well and truly refocus,” Australia coach Andrej Lemanis said.
Rubio had a 19-point, 12-assist double-double, with seven rebounds and four steals to his name, also.
According to FIBA, this was the seventh game that went into double overtime in World Cup (and its predecessor, the world championship) history. And it was the first to occur in a medal round.
Germany, behind 47 points from Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki, beat Angola 108-103 in triple overtime in the 2006 world championship. Another five games before Friday went double overtime, most recently Germany’s 82-81 win over Serbia in 2010.
It was the first double OT game for either Spain or Australia in any World Cup. Australia will now face France in third-place game on Sunday.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.