The road to the EuroBasket 2013 championship contest started when they were teenagers. For France’s Tony Parker and Boris Diaw, the gold medals they won on Sunday after defeating Lithuania 80:66 come a decade plus after they suited up for various French National junior teams staring in 2000. After the final buzzer, the old friends and San Antonio Spurs teammates embraced at mid-court in a moving moment of a journey well traveled.
For his part, Parker was named the tournament’s MVP based on his 19.7 points per game average and for leading the Frenchmen through the various rounds to the one medal that has eluded them. Parker has been an NBA MVP, has won three NBA finals, but the prize he’s looked for was the European Championship; EuroBasket 2013 belongs to him and his teammates. Parker’s numbers during EuroBasket 2013 were impressive, he averaged 19.0 points per game over 11 games, with highs of 28 against Ukraine, 27 against Slovenia in the quarterfinals and his big game was in the semis against Spain where he dropped a cool 32. On Sunday, he entered the game needing 21 points to become the all-time leader scorer in EuroBasket history, but came up with 12 as his teammates took over the scoring duties for the tired floor leader as he averaged 29.6 minutes per game over the 11 games.
I won the title. I’m a little tired. I felt it in the quarters and semis. And before the game coach said trust your teammates. If you score 10 points we will win the final. And he was right.
After Parker’s 32 in the semis against Spain, Les Bleus had a new scoring leader in Nicolas Batum. As part of France’s NBA trio, Batum, who plays for the Portland Trailblazers, is looked upon as a key member of the floor crew, but is known more for his defensive abilities. In the first half of the tournament, he averaged around 10 points per game, with a high of 17 against Great Britain, but came on strong in the last half, tallying a 19P/10R double-double against Latvia, then 12P/9R against Serbia, 14 points on Slovenia, only 3 against Spain, but then led the squad with 17 in the title contest. He averaged 11.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.
The captain of the French contingent, Diaw, had one of his best games on Sunday, scoring on the Lithuanians in the paint at will. The experienced Diaw has been credited with his leadership on and off the floor, leading by example on and making sure that his mates stayed focused on the task at hand off the court. Diaw averaged 10.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game over the 11 EuroBasket contests, playing an average of 28.3 minutes. Interestly, Diaw’s mother, Elizabeth Riffiod, was the center (she stands 1.88m) captain of the French National woman’s team in the 1970s.
Boris is the heart of the team, always pushing us and showing us how to do things the right way, he knows the game perfectly, like a second coach.
–Teammate Alexis Ajinca
As a team, the EuroBasket 2013 title is the first in France’s history. They came close in 2011, falling to Spain in the finals, but as Diaw hoisted the cup on Sunday, the Frenchmen had finally found the top of the podium in European basketball.
Lithuania opened the final contest by getting an early lead on the French, but it took a 10:2 run over the last two minutes to make it happen. Lithuania’s Linas Kleiza, also named to the all-tournament team, score eight of those final 10 in the frame to push his club to the three-point advantage, 22:19.
The EuroBasket 2013 title came to the French side in the second quarter, as they blew the doors open with a 31:12 result, giving Les Bleus a 50:34 halftime lead. Batum tallied 10 in the second. France ended the half on a 21:3 run.
Diaw opened scoring in the second half with a deuce in the paint, but Jonas Maciulis and Mantas Kalnietis connected on consecutive layups to cut the lead to 14. Diaw was having no part in watching the Lithuanians mount a comeback and knocked down a three-ball to extend the lead back to 17. Shortly after, Mickael Gelabale was fouled behind the arc and dropped all three singles and was followed-up by six in a row from Diaw, putting France up by 22, 64:42. They closed out the third 10 up 18 on a pair of charity tosses by Johan Petro to send the clubs into the fourth with France up 68:50.
With the game in hand, Parker seemed to open up a bit, looking for his shot and possibly challenge for the scoring title as the fourth quarter wound down, picking up eight of his 12 points in the last 10. Lithuania did outscore France 16:12 in the frame, but never got closer than 14.
France got 17 from Batum, 15 from Diaw, and 12 from Parker, while Kleiza was game-high with 20 for the Lithuanians. Kalnietis added 19, and Renaldas Seibutis added 10.
Parker headlined the All-EuroBasket 2013 Team, as the leading scorer over the event with a 19.0ppg average. He was joined in the backcourt by Goran Dragic from Slovenia, scoring 15.8ppg and adding 4.5 assists per contest. The forwards named to the elite team were Croatia’s Bojan Bogdanovic and Lithuania’s Kleiza. Bogdanovic finished second in scoring behind Parker at 17.4ppg, while hauling in 4.1 rebounds per game. Kleiza tallied 11.4ppg and 5rpg. Rounding out the crew at the center position is Spain’s Marc Gasol, who scored 13.9ppg and grabbed 7.8rpg.