Basketball

Inspired Luis Scola guides Argentina past France, into World Cup finale

AP

Luis Scola was asked what Sunday will mean to him, and he didn’t hesitate with the answer.

“Everything,” he said.

The veteran Argentine forward didn’t need to give more of an explanation. The FIBA World Cup title is one win away, and Scola made sure his team would have a chance to hoist the trophy.

Scola scored 28 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, sealing the deal with 3-pointers on consecutive possessions down the stretch, and Argentina beat France 80-66 on Friday in a World Cup semifinal.

Argentina will play Spain in the gold-medal game on Sunday.

Gabriel Deck scored 13 points and Facundo Campazzo added 12 for Argentina, a team with no active NBA players on its roster and still made its first gold-medal game in Olympic or World Cup play since the 2004 Athens Games. And when he made his way to the locker room, Scola was greeted by chants of “M-V-P” from teammates.

He corrected them with a smile: “MBP,” he said. “Most Beautiful Player.”

Indeed, on the court the 39-year-old’s game is still very much a thing of beauty. Showing no signs of fatigue, he played 34 of the 40 minutes and saved his best for the very end.

“Luis told us before every game, including today, that we can win — that we are a tough, tough team to beat,” Argentina center Tayavek Gallizzi said. “Just focus on our game. It’s incredible. At his age he is playing better than all the younger guys.”

Frank Ntilikina and Evan Fournier each scored 16 for France, which will play Australia for the bronze on Sunday. Nando De Colo scored 11 for France, a team that looked nothing like the one that topped the U.S. in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Rudy Gobert, who led France in that win over the Americans, scored only three points against Argentina.

“From the first to the last minute, it was complete domination,” Gobert said, tipping his cap to Argentina.

Both semifinal winners got two days off after their quarterfinal victories. Australia and France both played their quarterfinals on Wednesday, and France coach Vincent Collet said he thought that was a factor.

“I didn’t want to find any excuse, but I think so,” said Collet, who canceled practice Thursday because of his team’s travel demands. “For me, it’s not fair that one team has two days to recover and prepare even if they don’t know the first day who will be the opponent.

“They know it’ll be one or the other, so they can prepare for both.”

Argentina put together an early 10-0 run to take the lead, and kept it the rest of the way. A 15-point lead got cut to single digits for much of the fourth, when Scola’s back-to-back 3s clinched the outcome.

“It was a great game for us,” Campazzo said.

Spain 95, Australia 88 (2OT)

In Beijing, no one on Spain’s basketball team is looking past Sunday’s World Cup final.

Certainly not Marc Gasol, who scored 33 points to lead the Spanish over Australia in double overtime in the semifinals. Ricky Rubio had 19 points and Sergio Llull added 17.

Gasol won the NBA title a few months ago with the Toronto Raptors. And now he can do the double by winning with Spain, which won this title 13 years ago at Saitama Super Arena when it was called the FIBA 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.

It was two 3-point shots by Llull in the second overtime that pushed Spain to one of its largest leads of the game after trailing much of the time.

Patty Mills scored 34 to lead Australia with Nic Kay adding 16 points and 11 rebounds.

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.

Mills had two free throws to win the game with 4.8 seconds to play, but he missed the second after making the first to send the game into overtime at 71-71.

Both teams had chances to win in regulation and in the first overtime, which ended 80-80.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5