France wins over Russia 79-71
France will get the chance to fight it out for the EuroBasket title with Spain after their first ever win in a Semi-Final.
They inflicted a first loss of the tournament on Russia as they claimed a memorable 79-71 success, after an intense struggle which finally ended a last four ‘curse’ that had denied them on so many previous occasions.
Their victory also prevented Russia from setting up a repeat of the 2007 Final, with David Blatt and his team now left to fight it out with F.Y.R. of Macedonia in the bronze medal game.
As expected, both teams slugged it out in the early stages with neither giving the other any real daylight.
Timofey Mozgov dunked Russia into an 11-8 lead but Tony Parker responded with his second three-pointer of the game to level the scores.
France then edged ahead, thanks to a stunning baseline drive and dunk from Charles Kahudi before a spin move by Parker on the buzzer helped retain their slender advantage, at 17-16.
Russia started the second quarter in style with a dunk by Semen Antonov but France responded with a tough play from Nicolas Batum. Moments later they found themselves 24-20 ahead with possession and an opportunity to make a move.
But, after failing to execute, Mickael Gelabale was then called for an unsportsmanlike foul after stopping a fast break which gave Russia real impetus. They converted seven of the next nine points to take the lead, helped by a three-pointer by Sergey Monya.
France then managed to produce a decisive 11-2 scoring spurt with Batum and Parker both converting from downtown.
It put them 39-31 ahead with just 40 seconds of the half remaining but Vitaliy Fridzon replied immediately from the arc with what looked a potentially crucial score to limit the damage to five points.
France started the second half poorly when they returned from the locker room. They turned the ball over on their first three possessions and this allowed Russia to tie the game up in double-quick time.
With France scoring a solitary point in four minutes, they needed a kick start and it was Batum who provided. He made a couple of shots from downtown as France scored eight points without reply to take the initiative once more at 53-45. When they increased their lead to double digits at 61-49 early in the fourth, it looked like a long way back for Russia and so it proved.
While Kirilenko tried to rally his team, managing to get within four points, it wasn’t enough.
Parker and Batum both came up with some seriously big plays in crunch time to book a very special Sunday appointment with Spain.