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Sunday, Sep. 18, 2011

News photo
Next move: Spain's Juan Carlos Navarro (right) considers his options as Macedonia's Vlado Ilievski defends him during their European Championship semifinal on Friday. AP PHOTO

Spain, France through to final


KAUNAS, Lithuania — Defending champion Spain and France will play for the European basketball title Sunday, giving both nations spots in next year's Olympics.

Juan Carlos Navarro scored 35 points Friday in a performance his coach called a "masterpiece," leading Spain past Macedonia 92-80.

France, backed by 22 points from Tony Parker, beat Russia 79-71. Nicolas Batum added 19 points for the French, who reached the championship game for the first time. France won a silver medal in 1949 but the tournament was played in a different format and did not have a final.

The European Championship finalists automatically qualify for the London Games. The next four teams go to an additional qualifying tournament. Greece beat Serbia 87-77 earlier to join Lithuania and Macedonia in that group.

"I've been chasing this for 11 years and I'm very happy that I can finally say I'm going to the Olympics," Parker said.

France went on a 10-2 burst to finish the third quarter and pull away. Going into the fourth, the run was 16-4, with eight points coming from Ali Traore.

Pau Gasol had 22 points and 17 rebounds for Spain. Navarro scored 19 points in the third quarter to break open a close game. Spain coach Sergio Scariolo marveled at the play of his point guard.

"He's like a masterpiece you see in Louvre or Prado, he is like one of the best artists. He has his own inspiration. . . . He is out of this planet," Scariolo said.

Macedonia has been the surprise team of the tournament and gave Spain a tough game, leading 45-44 at halftime. Then Navarro took over.

"He was amazing, incredible, he did everything on both ends," said Spain power forward Serge Ibaka, who had 11 points. Ibaka, who is Congolese and plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder, is in his first tournament with Spain, his adopted country.

"We knew whom we were playing and that it would be hard to surprise Spain," Macedonia coach Marin Dokuzovski said. "We didn't play such good defense as before. My players were getting tired and Spain's offensive rebounds hurt us."

Bo McCalebb, the American-born Macedonia point guard, led his team with 25 points and five assists, while forward Pero Antic had 17 points and nine rebounds.

Pau Gasol, who struggled with his shot, had nine offensive rebounds as Spain outscored Macedonia 22-6 from second-chance opportunities. Gasol was 8-of-20 from the field. Younger brother Marc Gasol had 10 rebounds and 11 points for Spain, which pulled down 15 more rebounds than Macedonia.

Japan trounces Syria

Staff report

Kosuke Takeuchi scored 19 points on 8-for-12 shooting and Takuya Kawamura poured in 17 as the Japan men's natioal team defeated Syria 77-55 in the teams' final Group C game in Wuhan, China, on Saturday.

Kenta Hirose and Joji Takeuchi added 12 points apiece for Japan, which won its third game in as many days at the FIBA Asia Championship.

Kosuke Takeuchi grabbed a team-best 11 rebounds for Japan.

Artest changes name


LOS ANGELES — Ron Artest's bid to become Mr. World Peace was delayed, but not denied.

A court commissioner granted the Lakers forward's request to officially change his name to Metta World Peace on Friday, three weeks after the bid was blocked because Artest had unpaid traffic tickets.

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