Spain wins, Navarro the prancing hero
Once again and for the second game in succession, Juan Carlos Navarro exploded during the second half to fire his team to victory by pouring in 19 third-quarter points.
Navarro was the difference maker, finishing with 36 points including five trademark triples. Pau Gasol finished with another double-double as he claimed 22 points and 17 rebounds while Serge Ibaka produced a nice efficient cameo coming off the bench early in the game.
The difference in both offensive rebounding and second chance points was huge. F.Y.R. of Macedonia claimed only seven, compared to 19 by Spain and could only muster six second-chance points against 22 from Spain.
Reigning champions Spain will get the opportunity to defend their EuroBasket crown after Juan Carlos Navarro fired them into a third successive Final.
In a repeat of his dazzling performance against Slovenia, the Spain captain was unstoppable as he came alive after half-time to shoot down F.Y.R. of Macedonia and lead his team to an 92-80 win.
F.Y.R. of Macedonia knew they had to keep the scoring relatively low, and while they couldn’t match the prolific Navarro, they gave another performance to be proud of.
They started the contest well with Vlado Ilievski picking up where he left off in the quarter-final against Lithuania – with a three-point shot. It was followed by a dunk by Predrag Samardziski and a fast break by Vojdan Stojanovski as they took an early 7-4 lead.
Things looked even better for them moments later when Pau Gasol was benched after two offensive fouls in quick succession, but his replacement made a huge impact.
Serge Ibaka threw down a series of big dunks to give Spain the initiative as an entertaining opening ten minutes came to an end with a buzzer-beating triple by Sergio Llull which gave his team a commanding 26-18 lead.
A dunk by Pau Gasol took their advantage to double digits but F.Y.R. of Macedonia again showed their mental toughness by bringing the game straight back.
They registered an impressive 14-3 run off the back of some improved defence with a triple by Damjan Stojanovski, putting them 32-31 in front.
Spain then started making some outside shots with Juan Carlos Navarro and Jose Calderon both sinking three-balls but F.Y.R. of Macedonia stood firm and refused to let their opponent streak away.
In fact, by half-time, they found themselves ahead 45-44, and that was not a shock considering how well they were both looking after, and moving the ball.
There was little between the teams during most of the third period. A dunk by Pero Antic fuelled the belief of F.Y.R. of Macedonia but the dangerous Navarro then truly came to life to torch their hopes completely.
He injected life into Spain, with a string of three-pointers giving them a 71-62 lead and on the front foot.
F.Y.R. of Macedonia went down fighting in the last period but just couldn’t recover from the devastating Navarro blitz as they tried in vain to play catch-up.
Bo McCalebb was sensational at times in the losing effort, finishing with 25 points on 11-for-19 shooting from the floor, five assists and just one turnover in 34 minutes.