Pau Gasol carries Spain to Olympics; France to last-chance qualifier

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Pau Gasol scored 40 points as Spain outlasted host France 80-75 in overtime to qualify for the Rio Olympics in a EuroBasket semifinal on Thursday.

Gasol carried Spain, winner of the last two Olympic silver medals, in the knockout rounds of EuroBasket — scoring 30, 27 and 40 points in the last three games to book the nation’s fifth straight Olympic men’s basketball berth.

No other Spaniard scored more than 18 in any of those games, all close at various points of the fourth quarter and, in the case of France, overtime. Watch Gasol’s highlights against France here.

Spain needed Gasol given other NBA stars sat out EuroBasket for various reasons, including Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Ricky Rubio and Jose Calderon.

The EuroBasket finalists qualify for Rio. The second EuroBasket semifinal, between Serbia and Lithuania, is Friday in Lille.

The EuroBasket semifinal losers (plus the fifth- through seventh-place teams) advance to global, last-chance qualifying tournaments in July.

On Thursday, Spain became the seventh nation to qualify for the 12-team Rio Olympic men’s basketball tournament. The field is as follows:

Brazil — Host nation
U.S. — 2014 World champion
Australia — Oceania champion
Nigeria — Africa champion
Argentina — Americas finalist
Venezuela — Americas finalist
Spain — Europe finalist
Lithuania or Serbia — Europe finalist
Asian champion
Three winners of three July global, last-chance qualifying tournaments

France, which also lost to Spain in the London 2012 quarterfinals, will likely be favored at its six-team, global, last-chance qualifying tournament in July. The other teams at its specific tournament haven’t been named yet, but they will of course not include any of the teams qualified for Rio.

France’s team at EuroBasket included six NBA players to Spain’s two — including Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, Boris Diaw and Rudy Gobert.

The other top teams among those three last-chance tournaments will include Canada and may include Olympic bronze medalist Russia and Germany, which, with Dirk Nowitzki, nearly knocked out Spain in the EuroBasket group stage.

MORE BASKETBALL: Lithuania, Serbia meet for another Olympic berth