EuroBasket

Lithuania dumps Serbia in EuroBasket, qualifies for Rio Olympics

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Lithuania, one of the best Olympic men’s basketball nations of the last 25 years, wasn’t able to qualify for the London 2012 Games until 20 days before that Opening Ceremony.

It can rest easy this time around.

The Lithuanians held off reigning World silver medalist Serbia 67-64 in the EuroBasket semifinals Friday to clinch an Olympic berth, more than 10 months before the Rio Opening Ceremony.

Its EuroBasket roster includes Toronto Raptors big man Jonas Valanciunas (team-high 15 points against Serbia) and Gonzaga’s Domantas Sabonis, the son of longtime center Arvydas Sabonis who did not play against Serbia.

Serbia is now in the position Lithuania was four years ago, having to go to a global, last-chance qualifying tournament in July to earn its spot in Rio. France and Canada are also among the nations going to one of three, winner-take-all, last-chance qualifiers.

Lithuania became the eighth 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 — Europe finalist
Asian champion (October)
Three winners of three July global, last-chance qualifying tournaments

Lithuania lost in five straight Olympic semifinals from 1992 through 2008.

Then it was shocked in the EuroBasket 2011 quarterfinals, falling 67-65 to Macedonia in Kaunas, Lithuania, and being forced to the global, last-chance qualifier in July 2012.

Lithuania qualified for London, reached the 2012 Olympic quarterfinals and lost to eventual bronze medalist Russia. It marked Lithuania’s worst finish at an Olympics after splitting from the Soviet Union and debuting at Barcelona 1992.

Lithuania was one of three nations to beat the U.S. at the Athens 2004 Olympics (Puerto Rico, Argentina) and played the U.S. the closest of any nation at Sydney 2000 (two-point loss) and London 2012 (five-point loss).

The U.S. routed Lithuania by 28 points in the 2014 FIBA World Cup semifinals.

MORE BASKETBALL: Pau Gasol lifts Spain into Rio 2016

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

Lithuania, Serbia to play for Rio Olympic men’s basketball spot

Jonas Valanciunas
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Lithuania and Serbia, two nations with decades of international basketball tradition, will play for one Olympic berth in the EuroBasket semifinals on Friday.

In the quarterfinals Wednesday, Lithuania outlasted Italy 95-85 in overtime. Earlier, Serbia beat the Czech Republic 89-75.

Spain and France will play in the other EuroBasket semifinal in Lille, France, with an Olympic berth at stake Thursday. More on that showdown here.

The EuroBasket finalists qualify for the Rio Olympics. The third- through seventh-place finishers advance to global, last-chance qualifying tournaments in July, one month before the Olympics.

Serbia hasn’t qualified for an Olympic basketball tournament since it split from Montenegro before the Beijing 2008 Olympics. As part of Yugoslavia, it took silver at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics.

Serbia also fell to the U.S. in the final of the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

Lithuania lost in five straight Olympic semifinals from 1992 through 2008 and made the 2012 Olympic quarterfinals. Its EuroBasket roster includes Toronto Raptors big man Jonas Valanciunas and Gonzaga’s Domantas Sabonis, the son of longtime center Arvydas Sabonis.

The U.S., Brazil, Australia, Nigeria, Argentina and Venezuela are the first six nations in the 12-team Olympic field. The EuroBasket finalists and next month’s Asian champion will join them, plus three nations from the global, last-chance qualifying tournaments in July.

MORE BASKETBALL: Canada’s return to Olympic basketball on hold after heartbreaking loss