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Spain, Argentina turn back the clock to meet for FIBA World Cup title

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It’s been seven years since Spain’s men’s basketball team last played for a global title. For Argentina, it was 15 years ago.

After favorites U.S. and Serbia exited the FIBA World Cup early, it’s two of Team USA’s old rivals that will play for the championship in China on Sunday.

Spain overtook Australia 95-88 in two overtimes to reach its first Olympic or world final since the 2012 London Games. The Spaniards, led by Marc Gasol‘s 33 points, rallied from an 11-point third-quarter deficit. A full box score is here.

In Friday’s later semifinal, Argentina doused France 80-66 behind 39-year-old Luis Scola, the last remaining link to its 2004 Olympic title team. Scola had 28 points and 13 rebounds and received an “M-V-P” chant from teammates in the locker room. A full box score is here.

Athens 2004 was the last time Argentina advanced this far at an Olympics or worlds. Manu Ginobili and Andres Nocioni retired after the Rio Olympics, where the Argentine Golden Generation bowed out in the quarterfinals.

Spain followed Argentina as the world’s dominant basketball nation, aside from the U.S., in the 2000s.

Spain captured the 2006 World Cup and then lost two straight Olympic finals to the Americans. Its current roster is missing some of those now-retired stars. Its stalwart, 39-year-old Pau Gasol, is out after left foot surgery.

“Now it’s our turn to pass on the legacy to the next generation,” 34-year-old Marc Gasol said.

Australia just missed clinching its first Olympic or world medal. NBA veteran Matthew Dellavedova missed a one-handed running floater as time expired in the first overtime. San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills had game highs of 34 points and 45 minutes played.

The Aussies can still reach that first podium in Sunday’s bronze-medal game against France.

“The experience we had in Rio and the feeling of what it felt like to finish fourth when we had a chance to win a bronze and seeing how much that hurt everybody … I have the confidence that this group will be able to refocus,” Australia coach Andrej Lemanis said.

NBC Olympics senior researcher Rachel Thompson contributed to this report from China.

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Australia is first Olympic men’s basketball qualifier, without its star

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Australia will extend the longest active streak of Olympic men’s basketball appearances next summer.

The Australians clinched a spot in their 13th straight Olympics when New Zealand failed to advance out of its group at the FIBA World Cup. Oceania gets one Olympic qualifier out of the World Cup, and Australia took the spot by advancing to the second stage of group play.

Australia is the most accomplished basketball nation yet to earn an Olympic men’s medal. It finished fourth in 1988, 1996, 2000 and 2016, going winless in eight games with a medal at stake.

Australia’s medal hopes in Tokyo may be dependent on Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons.

Simmons passed on the Rio Olympics in favor of preparing for the 2016 NBA Draft, where he was the No. 1 overall pick, and the start of his pro career. He originally committed to the World Cup but withdrew on July 16 in favor of again preparing for the NBA season. But in withdrawing he said he would be “honored and humbled” to play at the Olympics.

Players on the World Cup roster with NBA experience include 2005 No. 1 overall pick Andrew Bogut and fellow Olympic veterans Patty Mills, Joe Ingles and Matthew Dellavedova.

Japan is in the 12-team Olympic field automatically as host nation. Six more nations will qualify for the Olympics at this month’s World Cup — two from the Americas, two from Europe, one from Africa and one from Asia.

The final four Olympic qualifiers will come from last-chance tournaments in 2020.

MORE: FIBA World Cup schedule, results

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Kyle Chalmers, Olympic 100m freestyle champ, has third heart surgery

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Kyle Chalmers, the Olympic 100m freestyle champion from Australia, underwent his third heart surgery on Monday, according to his social media.

“Fingers crossed today’s heart surgery fixed the problem once and for all,” was posted on Chalmers’ Instagram.

Chalmers, 21, has Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT), an elevated-heart-rate condition that can cause chest pain and fainting. He was diagnosed at age 12 and had a second surgery in 2017, keeping him out of those world championships.

Chalmers, the surprise Rio gold medalist in swimming’s marquee individual event, came back to win the 100m free at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships over American Caeleb Dressel.

Dressel returned the favor at last month’s world championships, relegating Chalmers to silver and creating a full-blown rivalry.

Chalmers played Australian rules football up until 2015, stopping after he broke his wrist and tore ankle ligaments during a game

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