French Claim Maiden Gold
France ascended to the top of Europe for the first time in their history by beating Lithuania 80-66 to win the EuroBasket 2013 gold medal - their first European title. Lithuania collected their second silver following 1995. Turning Point:
Lithuania were leading 29-27 when Linas Kleiza went to the bench for a breather after having scored 16 points. France took advantage of that with Nicolas Batum scoring eight points in a 21-3 close to the first half for a 50-34 margin at the break. Lithuania got no closer than 14 points the rest of the way.
Game Hero: After a disappointing semi-final, France's Nicolas Batum stepped up in a big way with 17 points with three three-pointers to go along with six rebounds.
Stats Don't Lie: France shot 47.9% for the game while out-rebounding Lithuania 42-25 and committing just nine turnovers.
Nicolas Batum was on a mission to make good his poor performance in the semi-finals and led the French with 17 points, including three three-pointers while also collecting six rebounds. With Lithuania concentrating on bottling up Tony Parker - who had just 12 points on six-for-17 shooting and three assists - Boris Diaw played a great supporting role with 15 points, six rebounds and four assists.
After 13 previous top-four finishes all came up short, the 2011 finalists France finally claimed their worthy spot atop the podium.
Lithuania were hunting for title number four after 1937, 1939 and 2003. But in the end, the Baltic side had to make due with a second silver following 1995.
Linas Kleiza tried all he could for Lithuania with 20 points and five rebounds while Mantas Kalnietis added 19 points, four rebounds and two assists in the loss.
Batum really made his presence felt in the early stages with a block on Kalnietis, a driving hook, a triple from the left wing and a jumper. Lithuania stayed in the game thanks to their outside shooting with Kleiza and Jonas Maciulis both hitting from the right corner.
But a Boris Diaw putback of his own miss gave France a 15-10 advantage and Jonas Kazlauskas had seen enough and called a timeout.
Parker's driving layup pushed the margin to 17-10 but Kleiza began to take over with a three-point play, a triple and another basket before Kalnietis' driving layup put Lithuania up 22-19 after one quarter.
The game definitely had a heavyweight championship boxing character to it with the teams exchanging one blow after the next - albeit in the form of big shots. Kleiza, who had scored 11 points in the first quarter, continued his great night with a triple to give Lithuania a 29-27 lead.
But Kleiza sat down for a breather at that point and Lithuania struggled to find continued offensive execution, just like in the semi-final when Kleiza was on fire in the first half and then went to the bench.
Lithuania's big puncher was gone while Nando De Colo and Johan Petro both hit jumpers for France before Batum's back-to-back long balls were followed by an Antoine Diot driving layup to make it 41-34 and force another Lithuania timeout.
Kleiza came back on but the momentum was with France, who forced three turnovers over a four-possession stretch until an in-bounds pass with 0.9 seconds left missed Kleiza and went untouched out of bounds. France used that mistake as Diot launched a shot near half court which was given, sending Les Bleus into the locker rooms up 50-34.
All told, France ended the half on a 21-3 run.
"Today we had a chance to win but they were better than us we didn't do anything to give ourselves a chance to win. I don't know what more to say. We let them feel the game and we lost the game," said Lithuanian stalwart Robertas Javtokas following the closing ceremony.
Lithuania tried to get back into the game after the break but could not execute offensively against the tough French defence. The margin was down to 52-38 but Diaw came back down and nailed a three ball.
The power forward took over more of the scoring responsibilities for France in the third quarter with 11 points as France increased the lead to 22 points - 64-42. Lithuania would eventually fight to within 68-50 after three quarters.
France continued to fight in the fourth quarter with Parker getting tough points as the French would not let Lithuania to within 14 points the rest of the way.
With 20 seconds remaining the French bench was up and celebrating."It's hard to describe how I feel. The journey was unbelievable. I wouldn't change a thing," said tournament MVP Parker following the game.
"I won the title. I'm a little tired. I felt it in the quarters and semis. And before the game coach said trust your teammates. If you score 10 points we will win the final. And he was right."
The France boss Vincent Collet was proud that Parker had finally gotten his title.
"For so much time he has tired with French basketball to reach this trophy. Finally he got it. That's simply the natural reward. But it was not the easiest way," said Collet.