Marc Gasol and the Spanish National Team have advanced to the semifinals of FIBA EuroBasket for the tenth consecutive time and will face NBA guard Goran Dragic and Slovenia on Thursday in Turkey.
A Spain victory on Thursday would secure a second straight trip to the EuroBasket finals, where Gasol and his teammates will attempt to defend their championship. Spain’s undefeated run through this year’s field continued with Tuesday’s 84-72 victory over Germany in the quarterfinals.
Gasol, a three-time All-Star center with the Grizzlies, enters Thursday’s semifinal game coming off his best performance of the tournament after posting 28 points, 10 rebounds and four assists for his first double-double in EuroBasket 2017 play.
Aggressive on both sides of the ball, Gasol took over in the pivotal third quarter of a tight game with Germany. He grabbed three rebounds in the first two minutes and scored 18 of his tournament-best 28 points in the period. The offensive barrage came midway through the third, when Gasol buried three three-pointers and chipped in a layup to push Spain to its largest lead at 65-53.
“In the NBA, I did that a couple of times,” Gasol said of taking over with a flurry of offense. “It depends on the game and how the game goes. Once you get into rhythm, the goal gets a lot bigger and you get really locked in and tunnel vision. I always wanted to play good for all of these guys. All here, we want to do great for our teammates more than ourselves. Everyone wants to do well for the guy next to him.”
Germany would cut the lead to single digits at nine with just under a minute to go, but Pau Gasol’s three-point play sealed the win for Spain. Germany’s Dennis Schroder (Atlanta Hawks) led his team with 27 pts and eight assists in the losing effort.
“At the end of the day, Marc really made some incredible shots – and what can you say,” Germany coach Chris Fleming said. “He’s a great player making great plays. We were not able to match that.”
Entering the game against Germany, Gasol said Spain needed to regain its rhythm on offense after a sluggish performance against Turkey in the opening round of the tournament’s knockout stage. Gasol also suggested he would be more assertive to help his team regain its footing. Against Germany, it was defense that sparked Spain’s faster tempo and open-court play.
“They made the game very physical and packed the paint,” Gasol said of Germany. “Defensively, we were really disciplined. And we were able to run a little bit. Once we were able to make a couple of shots in a row, we were able to build a lead and maintain a lead to the end.”
Now two wins from repeating as EuroBasket champions, Spain knows the challenges only grow tougher the rest of the way after relatively cruising through double-digit victories so far in the tournament.
“The structure is what it is,” Gasol said. “In every game, you can learn a lot of things regardless of score. Every game has its positives and negatives. So I don’t see the scoreboard as something you can analyze. It’s a result. Even when you win by a lot, you can still learn a lot. When you win by a little, you can still learn. You have to humble yourself and understand that this is for a European championship, and every game means a lot to every country. People play with a lot of pride.”