Olympics: Spain to face Russia in hoop semis

Nursing bruises and a grudge, reigning European champion Spain will face Russia in an Olympic men's basketball semi-final after outlasting France 66-59 in a punishing physical matchup on Wednesday.

Marc Gasol scored 14 points and Pau Gasol added 10 points and 11 rebounds to power the Spaniards into Friday's game with Russia, which beat Lithuania 83-74 in another quarter-final and earlier defeated Spain 77-74 in round-robin play.

"It's going to be a battle of wills in the semi-finals," Marc Gasol said.

"We're still growing. We have a lot of confidence we will find our game. We still have room to grow but that was a big game for us. We played together. We suffered together and in the end we pulled it off."

The US NBA Dream Team was set to face Australia and Brazil was to face Argentina in other quarter-finals Wednesday.

Hard physical fouls by France on Spanish playmaker Rudy Fernandez and captain Juan-Carlos Navarro in the final seconds left both players hurting, Spain coach Sergio Scariolo said.

"I think and hope somehow the will be able to play. The question is how," Scariolo said. "When you beat an opponent so many times in a row you can understand how they can be especially disappointed."

French players took issue with Spain's late collapse in a group loss to Brazil that drew them against France rather than in the side of the draw with the US NBA Dream Team.

"I'm angry," Nicolas Batum said. "We deserve it. We deserve it much more than them."

Spain scored 12 points in a row in the final quarter, France going scoreless for almost seven minutes, after switching to a zone defence that frustrated the French in a replay of last year's European finals that also went Spain's way.

"The effort and intensity, especially in the fourth quarter, was something especially remarkable," Scariolo said. "They came back and deserved to win."

French coach Vincent Collett could only lamment cold shooting in the final quarter after containing the Gasols much of the way.

"We're very disappointed. We did what we had planned, especially defensively," Collett said. "It was enough to have the lead for a long time but not good enough in the second half to keep it.

"This game for some of us was the gamne of our careers. That's why we played this incredible game."

Against Russia in group play, Spain jumped ahead 20-2 but squandered the lead by the middle of the third quarter and faded in the fourth quarter to lose.

"The game plan can be the same but we have to react to their reaction and be ready to come up with something whatever they do," Scariolo said. "You have to be ready for any situation."

Russia will have the chance to play for an Olympic medal under their own flag for the first time the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Andrei Kirilenko scored 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds and Timofey Mozgov added 17 points to spark Russia's victory over rival Lithuania, which had played for bronze in the past five Olympics.

"It was a battle," Blatt said. "You are in there fighting. That was a boxing match. I'm glad we were able to finish ahead on points."

Lithuania scored 11 points in a row to pull within 54-53, but the Russians answered with an 8-0 run and sank free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.

"We took our chances. We fought," Kemzura said. "Playing against Russia, every mistake turns into points for your opponent."


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