Aug 8, 2012, 2:02 PM EDT
After three quarters, this was shaping up to be a classic. And with less than seven minutes to go France led 57-54.
Then the wheels came off for France. Actually, that’s too kind. France crashed and burned. They scored 6 points total in the fourth quarter and went scoreless for more than seven minutes. And then it got worse. France’s poor play degenerated into personal ugliness and a Nicolas Batum punch that probably had David Stern calling to suspend guys until he realized he couldn’t.
In the end, Spain wins 66-59 and advances to a rematch with Russia in the semifinals, the winner of that advancing to the gold medal game. France goes home.
France shot 0-for-11 to end the game (ignoring the meaningless bucket they made as time expired). Spain was down three in the fourth but went on a 12-0 to seal the game, a run in part sparked by a Pau Gasol defensive blocked shot that turned into a fast break and bucket for Sergio Lull that gave Spain a lead they would never relinquish.
Spain picked up their defensive intensity, but France could not create or hit shots they made earlier. They grew frustrated. They could feel the game slowly slipping away (slowly because Spain wasn’t scoring that fast either).
Then the frustration boiled over as France needed to start fouling to extend the game and have a chance.
First was a hard intentional hip check foul by Ronny Turiaf on Rudy Fernandez. That earned Spain free throws that they used to ice the game.
Then came the ugly moment — Portland’s Nicolas Batum came to intentionally foul Juan Carlos Navarro and flat out punched him in the groin. Wound up and punched him. This was way worse than what happened to Carmelo Anthony, this was a six game suspension if he tried it in the NBA. It led to Marc Gasol and other Spanish players coming to defend Navarro and a fight almost broke out.
Adrain Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports and the NBC Sports Network asked him about it (via twitter):
I asked Nicolas Batum why he hit Juan-Carlos Navarro in the groin. “I wanted to give him a good reason to flop,” Batum said.
David Stern read that and tried to tack on two more games.
Batum went on after the game to accuse Spain of intentionally losing to Brazil in the final game of group play to get France in the first round (and out of the American’s side of the bracket). A few hours later, Batum apologized on twitter:
I want to apologize for my stupid act at the end, I showed a bad image of France and myself, Congrats to team Spain.
Batum shouldn’t be blaming Spain — France could have won this game and they blew it all by themselves. He can blame himself for shooting 3-for-12 on the night. Overall France shot 33.9 percent for the game and missed a lot of makable looks. France did a good job defensively — they doubled Pau Gasol as soon as he touched the ball and made other guys beat them — but as has been their historic problem France couldn’t score enough.
Marc Gasol had 14 to lead Spain, while his brother Pau had 10 points and 11 boards. Boris Diaw and Tony Parker each had 15 for France, but Parker was so frustrated he shattered his goggles after the game. He really doesn’t like those things.
France had their chances. In the end, they resorted to ugly play. Spain acted like the team that has been there before, so they get a chance to keep playing for a medal.
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