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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