MADRID – France came from behind in the final quarter to beat Lithuania 95-93 and win the bronze medal at the Basketball World Cup on Saturday.
Lithuania led by seven points entering the fourth period, and center Jonas Valanciunas scored five points to put Lithuania ahead 80-77 with three minutes to play.
But Boris Diaw drove twice to score contested layups as France went ahead and held on.
The final minute became a parade of both teams exchanging free throw attempts, but France’s shooters didn’t waver. The final 16 seconds saw 11 fouls and 22 free-throw attempts as Lithuania wanted to stop the clock and recover possession, and France wanted to stop Lithuania from shooting from 3-point territory.
Nicolas Batum led France with a game-high 27 points, and Diaw scored eight of his 15 points in the fourth quarter to spur the comeback.
Valanciunas paced Lithuania with 25 points to go with nine rebounds.
Last summer, Tony Parker helped France win the European championship. Now, without the San Antonio Spurs guard, France has achieved its best ever finish at a world championship. Both feats came under coach Vincent Collet.
“When we started this adventure in July, we had the goal of finishing in the top three,” Collet said. “The way we reached this third place is even better for us.”
France upset host Spain in the quarterfinals before losing to Serbia in the semifinals.
Atlanta — The Atlanta Hawks released an open letter of apology to fans and city of Atlanta on Saturday, saying the organization “did not do the right thing” to correct racially inflammatory words and innuendos “over a period of years.”
The apology, signed by CEO Steve Koonin, was released one day after the team announced general manager Danny Ferry was taking an indefinite leave of absence following his racially charged comments about Luol Deng.
Last Sunday, co-owner Bruce Levenson announced he’d sell his controlling share of the team following the release of his racially inflammatory comments in an email to Ferry and the team’s other owners.
“We are very sorry,” Koonin said in the letter.
“Over the course of the last week, the Hawks have let down our players, our employees, our fans and the city we love. Our shortcomings have been broadly shared — including how we have failed to operate well internally and externally. It has been humbling and, while we have read, seen and come to know many things about ourselves, our learnings have just begun.”
Ferry described Deng, who is from South Sudan, in a conference call with the Hawks’ ownership group as someone who “has a little African in him.”
“He’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front and sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back,” said Ferry during the June call, which was recorded.
An internal investigation into Ferry’s comments uncovered an email sent two years ago by Levenson, who theorized that “the black crowd scared away the whites and there are simply not enough affluent black fans to build a significant season ticket base.”