Marc Gasol's monster game leads Spain into FIBA World Cup final

William Lou
NBA reporter
Marc Gasol will get a shot at his second championship this summer. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

Marc Gasol scored 33 points to give Spain a 95-88 win in double overtime over Australia to advance into the finals of the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

Australia led for close to the entire game, but Gasol shook off a cold start and made a handful of clutch plays to close the gap. Gasol nailed two free throws to give Spain their first lead of the second half with less than 10 seconds left, and was consistent throughout overtime to complete the comeback. Gasol didn’t have a single basket in the first half, but scored 29 points from thereon.

In typical Gasol fashion, he opened the game with an emphasis on facilitating for others. However, that approach diminished his effect on the game as he was selfless to a fault. In previous games during the tournament, Gasol was able to play a secondary role while Ricky Rubio, Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Llull took turns leading the offence, but all three wings were cold.

Gasol’s approach flipped after halftime. He immediately got into the post for a layup in the third quarter, followed by a 3-pointer. Those two plays got Gasol going, as his teammates started creating for him rather than the other way around. Gasol was the key focus in Spain’s offence for the remainder of the game, as Gasol repeatedly punished the defence off a high screen by either popping to the perimeter for 3, getting into the midrange for short floaters, or rolling all the way and punishing smaller defenders down low.

The 34-year-old Spaniard finished with 33 points on 11-of-19 shooting, along with three triples, six rebounds, four assists and two blocks in 38 minutes.

Spanish coach Sergio Scariolo also deserves praise, as the Toronto Raptors assistant borrowed a page from Nick Nurse’s playbook with an unorthodox box-and-one defence against Patty Mills. Scariolo’s trick slowed Australia’s momentum just enough to allow Spain to catch up at the end of regulation, and Australia never quite regained their rhythm in the two overtime periods.

The win was not without controversy, as Australian centre Andrew Bogut lambasted officials on his way off the floor. Bogut was whistled for a loose ball foul while boxing out Gasol in the dying moments of the fourth quarter which kept Spain alive. Bogut had inside position for the rebound, but his off arm caught Gasol in what was otherwise a rather innocuous play. Bogut bristled at the call at the time, and gestured with his hands that the officials were bought.

Nevertheless, it was yet another heartbreaker for Australia, who also lost in the bronze medal game to Spain by a point in the 2016 Rio Olympics. As for Spain, they will face the Cinderella team of the World Cup in Argentina, who toppled France behind 28 points from ex-Raptors forward Luis Scola.

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