Spain, Argentina roll, set up final four showdown

8/29/2006 - NBA Pau Gasol Memphis Grizzlies + more

SAITAMA, Japan -- Pau Gasol had 25 points and nine rebounds and Spain used another
impressive performance to beat Lithuania 89-67 Tuesday and advance
to the FIBA World Championship final four for the second time.

Spain (7-0) will play Argentina (7-0), which advanced by routing Turkey 83-58 behind 21 poins from Andres Nocioni.

Both teams have run over their opponents in this tournament,
with average margin of victories in the 20s. They both have NBA
stars -- Argentina has Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs and
Spain has Pau Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies.

"These are two of the best teams in the world and they play
similar games with smart players," Argentina coach Sergio
Hernandez said of the final four matchup. "It will be a great,
great game and people will enjoy it and nobody can say before the
game who will win."

"The team who beats us is the team that plays really well,"
Spain coach Pepu Hernandez said. "We know we can lose if we don't
do the right job and be the team we have been until this moment.
They can beat us, but it will be difficult."

Spain 89, Lithuania 67
Juan Carlos Navarro added 22 points for Spain, which finished
fourth in 1982 in its only other semifinal appearance.

"This game was much easier than we expected probably because of
the way we established our rhythm and kept it up and did not allow
Lithuania to ever get in the game," Navarro said. "We will do our
best to make history. In front of us is a great opportunity and we
have to try and take advantage because you don't get many

Spain came into the game with an average margin of victory of 25
points, and it led this game 76-49 with five minutes to play when
the reserves took over.

Gasol, the 7-foot center who plays for the Memphis Grizzlies,
came into the game averaging 21 points and 9.2 rebounds while
shooting 65 percent from the field. He was 8-for-14 from the field
Tuesday and 9-for-12 from the free throw line.

Darius Lavrinovic had 17 points to lead Lithuania (4-3), which
never recovered from another one of Spain's bursts, this one a 15-0
run that spanned the first and second quarters.

Lavrinovic scored down low with 3:53 left in the first quarter
to bring Lithuania within 17-11. Lithuania wouldn't score again for
5:33, missing eight shots and committing six turnovers as Spain
turned up the defensive pressure and scored again and again on
breakaway layups and dunks.

Linas Kleiza, who plays for the Denver Nuggets, finally broke
Lithuania's drought with a tip-in with 8:20 left in the first half,
cutting Spain's lead to 32-13. Spain led 47-30 at halftime and
opened the second half with a 7-0 run, forcing three turnovers in
the first two minutes.

"They could not get into the game with the best moment of
Spanish defense," Hernandez said. "Maybe 30 percent of our
defense is strategy. The rest is the mentality and the work of the
players on the court."

Navarro had four of Spain's five 3-pointers and Gasol was
dominant inside as Spain pulled away to another easy win. The
closest any team has come was Angola, which lost 93-83 in the
opening round.

Spain finished with 17 steals and forced Lithuania into 28
turnovers, nine more than its average over the first six games.

Lithuania, a young team that wasn't given much of a chance at a
medal entering the tournament, surprised Italy in the second round
to reach the quarterfinals.

"We brought a young team and we learned a lot. This can only
make us better," said Kleiza, who had 15 points and 14 rebounds.
"They ran straight at us."

Lithuania coach Antanas Sireika didn't want to use major
international inexperience as an excuse.

"We did not prepare mentally for this game," he said. "In a
game as important as this, you cannot make 28 turnovers and expect
to get away with it. We still have a long way to go before becoming
a strong team. We have a lot of work to do."

Argentina 83, Turkey 58
Nocioni, who plays for the Chicago Bulls, was 6-for-7 from the
field and grabbed six rebounds to lead Argentina in its latest
blowout. The South Americans came in having won its first six games
by an average of 23 points.

They took over this one by holding Turkey (5-2) to seven points
in the second quarter to take a 43-23 halftime lead.

Argentina shot 55 percent (16-for-29) in the opening half,
holding Turkey to 32 percent (9-for-28), well off the 46 percent it
was shooting entering the game. Turkey averaged 76.7 points in its
first six games.

"We played our best defense of the tournament in the first
half," Argentina coach Sergio
Hernandez said. "We got easy points because we had a lot
of patience on offense and when we do that we can find easy

Ginobili had seven points on 1-for-2 shooting and only played 16
minutes. No Argentina starter played in the fourth quarter, which
started with it leading 75-40.

A concern for Argentina in its 79-62 second-round win over New
Zealand was that it missed 17 of its 18 3-point attempts. Against
Turkey, Argentina finished 8-for-23 from beyond the arc.

Cenk Aykol had 11 points to lead Turkey, which lost only to
unbeaten Greece in the final game of the opening round. Turkey
advanced to its first quarterfinal with a 90-84 victory over

"Nobody in Turkey was expecting we would be in the eight and
for that we are very proud," Aykol said. "We never thought this
would be a 30-point game. We couldn't play defense and couldn't
make baskets but we tried our best."