Parker guides France to European basketball gold
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NBA star Tony Parker led France's basketball team to its first major title on Sunday, inspiring the French squad's 80-66 defeat of Lithuania in the final of the European Championship.
An inspired France won their maiden basketball title in any major competition after overwhelming Lithuania 80-66 in an enthralling European championship final on Sunday.
Thriving on long-range shooting and an effervescent performance by Portland Trailblazers guard Nicholas Batum, the French finally touched the pinnacle after finishing as runners-up in 1949 and 2011.
A fired-up Batum, who endured a patchy tournament and averaged only 11 points up to the final, scored 17 in a rip-roaring first half which saw France overturn a 22-19 first-quarter deficit with a barrage of three-pointers.
Forward Linas Kleiza carried the Lithuanians with 16 points early in the game but lack of support from back-court players pegged back the 2003 winners.
Batum’s efforts were complemented by inspirational playmaker Tony Parker, who carved out the supply routes with selfless work in offence.
The French led 50-34 at halftime and although the Lithuanians fought hard to keep the deficit down, they had no reply for an athletic French outfit who dominated the boards and kept slicing their rivals open with quick transition of the ball.
Drawing on his vast NBA experience, Parker marshalled the French and his San Antonio Spurs team mate Boris Diaw did the damage in the paint at both ends, as the duo engineered a 76-56 advantage with three minutes left.
Parker netted with a pair of audacious lay-ups in the closing stages to put the icing on the cake and throw vociferous French fans in the Stozice Arena into raptures, capping a memorable 24-team tournament.
Earlier on Sunday, 2011 champions Spain won the bronze medal with a 92-66 rout of Croatia.