FIBA Basketball World Cup: Spain brushes aside Argentina to lift crown

Spain wins its second title; Marc Gasol becomes only the second man to win an NBA crown and the World Cup in the same year.

Authoritative performance: Pierre Oriola of Spain (right) cheers with his team-mate Sergio Llull during the final at the Cadillac Arena in Beijing.   -  AP

Three-time All-Star Marc Gasol became only the second man to win an NBA crown and the World Cup in the same year after Spain brushed aside Argentina 95-75 on Sunday.

Spain, which survived double overtime against Australia to reach the final, led throughout in Beijing to win international basketball’s biggest prize a second time. The only previous occasion was in 2006 with the two Gasol brothers, Marc and older sibling Pau, on the team.

Pau did not feature in China because of injury.

Sweet triumph

The latest triumph was particularly sweet for the 34-year-old centre Gasol, who three months ago also played a key part in Toronto Raptors’ run to the NBA title.

Gasol, who had 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, joins Lamar Odom, a double winner in 2010 with the United States and Los Angeles Lakers.

Surprise finalist Argentina had not triumphed since it hosted the inaugural World Cup in 1950.

As a contest, the final was over by the fourth quarter — although the Argentines did rally belatedly to reduce Spain’s previously mighty lead. Fans of both teams had made it feel more like a football match, decked out in their national colours, chanting loudly and refusing to sit down.

Early lead

Spain, for whom Ricky Rubio of the Phoenix Suns has been one of the leading players of the tournament in China, surged into a 14-2 lead. In front of a capacity crowd, Argentina’s 39-year-old talisman Luis Scola could not escape the attentions of Pierre Oriola.

Led by its slick-haired Italian coach Sergio Scariolo, Spain was up 21-14 going into the second quarter and increased its advantage to 43-31 at half-time. With Rubio prominent, drilling 20 points, Spain never looked like surrendering its lead, repeatedly thwarting Argentina’s suffocated offence.

U.S. finishes seventh

In the third-place playoff, France roared back after half-time to defeat Australia 67-59 and claim a second World Cup bronze in a row — and extend the Boomers’ long wait for a major medal.

Deposed champions the United States, which was missing its elite names, finished seventh, its lowest position in tournament history. It did, at least, qualify to defend its Olympic title in Tokyo next summer.

With 32 teams, this was the biggest Basketball World Cup ever. The next one will be in 2023 in Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines.