With an Olympic berth on the line, San Antonio Spurs’ Tony Parker and Team France showed that with talent, perseverance and hard work it can be done.
Facing the only unbeaten team in the 2011 EuroBasket, the French had the daunting task to hand the Russians their first loss in the tournament in order to earn a spot in next year’s London Olympics.
With the help of the Parker and Portland Trail Blazers’ swingman Nicolas Batum they did.
France won the opening quarter 17-16 and then extended their lead over Russia at halftime, 39-34.
The Russians kept the game close in the second half, before the French went on a 10-2 burst to finish the third quarter to build an eight point lead going into the fourth.
Both teams scored 24 points in the final canto, as France went on to win 79-71 to advance into the EuroBasket finals, and more importantly gain a spot to the 2012 London Olympics.
Parker led France with 22 points, three rebounds, three assists, four steals but also committed five turnovers in 37 minutes of play.
Batum added 19 points, while Spurs draftee Nando De Colo provided quality minutes off the bench, finishing with nine points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals and three miscues in 29 minutes of action for the French nationals.
Andrei Kirilenko had a game-high 21 points for Russia.
In the earlier match, Juan Carlos Navarro scored 35 points to lead Spain past Macedonia 92-80.
Parker and France will go up against defending champion Spain and Pau Gasol on Sunday to play for the 2011 EuroBasket title.
Both nations earned spots in next year’s Olympics in London.