Ricky Rubio

AP

Spain crushes Argentina for FIBA World Cup title

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Spain won its second global title in men’s basketball and its first since 2006, downing Argentina 95-75 in the FIBA World Cup final in China on Sunday.

The Spaniards, who were eliminated from gold-medal contention at the last four Olympics by the U.S. (including in two finals), benefited from the Americans’ early exit last week. The U.S. finished seventh, its worst result ever in a major international tournament, after losses to France and Serbia.

“Whatever is going to be decided or worked out in their house is going to be theirs,” Spain coach Sergio Scariolo said. “But it’s an honor to be above them in the final ranking. I’m expecting them so strong next year.”

But Spain had its own challenge. Its stalwart, Pau Gasol, missed the World Cup due to left foot surgery (and wrote a motivational, thank-you letter to the team before the final). Other veterans from those Olympic silver-medal teams, including Jose Calderon and Juan Carlos Navarro, have moved on.

“It’s just amazing how the whole tournament has been us as a team,” guard Ricky Rubio said. “You can tell, we weren’t the most talented team. We weren’t the bigger team. … We were the team who has the big heart.”

This team, led by all-tournament players Marc Gasol and Rubio, played a turn-back-the-clock final against Argentina, which has one player left from its Golden Generation — 39-year-old Luis Scola.

Both Scola and Argentina’s other go-to man, point guard Facundo Campazzo, were stymied into a combined 3-of-21 shooting.

A full box score is here.

Now Spain will go to Tokyo seeking a first Olympic title after silver or bronze medals at the last three Games. Can a Spanish team, hopefully with Pau Gasol back, take on what will be a U.S. roster with the NBA superstars it lacked in China? Marc Gasol said he wasn’t sure if the brothers will be in Tokyo.

“At this point of the career, you don’t know,” he said. “You want to be there. You hope to be there. But you don’t make any promises.”

Earlier Sunday, France beat Australia 67-59 in the third-place game, denying the Aussies their first Olympic or world medal.

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Spain Olympic basketball roster includes 7 NBA players

Pau Gasol
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Pau Gasol leads a Spanish Olympic men’s basketball roster with seven NBA players, most of any nation other than the U.S.

Spain lost to the U.S. in the last two Olympic finals and is one of the Americans’ biggest threats this year, along with France.

Gasol is joined on the roster by fellow NBA players including Olympic veterans Ricky RubioJose Calderon and Sergio Rodriguez and Olympic rookies Alex AbrinesGuillermo Hernangomez and Nikola Mirotic.

Former NBA players and Olympic veterans Juan Carlos Navarro (fifth Olympics) and Rudy Fernandez are also on the team.

Missing from the team are two prominent players from the 2012 Games — Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, who is out after broken foot surgery Feb. 23, and Orlando Magic forward Serge Ibaka.

MORE: Manu Ginobili leads Argentina Olympic basketball roster

Ricky Rubio injured playing for Spain in Olympic tune-up

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Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio hurt his knee Tuesday in an Olympic tune-up against Angola, according to reports. The extent of the injury is not yet known, but he left the game, which Spain won, 85-61.

UPDATE: Rubio took a hit to his thigh and was held out as precaution.

Rubio, who plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves, is one of the NBA stars expected to lead Spain into another gold-medal showdown against the U.S. The Americans have won the past two men’s basketball Olympic titles, defeating Spain each time.

The Spaniards were without Rubio in 2012 after he tore his ACL in an NBA game five months before the London Games. In 2008, Rubio became the youngest basketball player to compete in an Olympic final, as he suited up as a 17-year-old.

Rubio led Spain in assists and steals at the 2014 FIBA World Cup, where Spain struggled to a fifth-place finish after losing to France in the quarterfinals. The U.S. won that tournament and will have a drastically different roster in Rio, but is still expected to claim another gold medal.

MORE: Serge Ibaka won’t suit up for Spain in Olympics