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Spain returns to FIBA World Cup final after 13 years

Xinhua | Updated: 2019-09-13 20:24
Joe Ingles (1st R) of Australia competes with Ricky Rubio (2nd R) of Spain during the semifinal match between Spain and Australia at the 2019 FIBA World Cup in Beijing, capital of China, Sept 13, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

BEIJING - Team Spain survived two thrilling overtimes to beat Australia 95-88 on Friday at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup semifinal, making into the World Cup final for the second time in the team's history after winning title in 2006.

Spain continued their winning streak in China with the victory. The 34-year-old veteran Marc Gasol made all of his eight free-throw attempts to score a team-best 33 points. Sergio Llull made 17 points, including two three-pointers in the second overtime. Ricky Rubio added 19.

Rubio started the game with a three-pointer and Spain was once leading 5-0. Australia fought back with jump shots from Joe Ingles and Patty Mills. Australia was more efficient on field goal percentage but Spain did a little better on three-point shooting. Spain closed the first quarter 22-21 after Sergio Llull hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer.

Playing without Rubio and Gasol, Spain had difficulty on offense at the beginning of the second quarter. Australia delivered a 6-0 run as Spain's head coach Sergio Scariolo called a time-out. Rubio returned to the court and made a jump shot after the time-out, but Australian shooters made full use of fast-break chances to expand the lead to eight points. Australia then missed a couple of shooting attempts, allowing Spain to cut the deficit to 47-42 by the end of the first half.

Australia maintained their tough defense in the second half to broaden the gap to 11 points. Spain survived the crisis thanks to big shots from Llull, entering the final quarter with a four-point deficit.

Spain managed to catch up in the final quarter. Gasol made two free-throw chances with 8.7 seconds left to move Spain ahead 71-70. Mills then cut into the paint and was fouled by Spanish forward Victor Claver. Mills knocked down one of his two free throws to take the game into overtime.

Spain took a 5-point lead after Gasol's three-pointer, but Australia drew the score with less than one minute. Mills made another two free-throws to give Australia an 80-78 lead with 14.2 seconds left, but Gasol copied his stable performance on the free-throw line to level the score 80-80 and force a second overtime.

Llull turned out to be the key player in the second overtime. The 31-year-old point guard knocked down two big shots beyond the arc to carry Spain 90-82 ahead with two minutes left. Australia fought hard to get back into the game, but Spain sealed the victory after a jump-shot from Gasol.

Mills had a game-high 34 points for Australia, while Nic Kay had 16.

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