France and Spain sail through as Latvia stun Slovenia
LILLE, France (Reuters) - Holders France and former double winners Spain cruised into the European basketball championship quarter-finals with emphatic victories while Latvia also emerged as big winners on Saturday.
The three nations were joined by 1987 champions Greece who destroyed Belgium 75-54.
The opening last-16 clashes produced enthralling basketball in Lille's soccer stadium, adapted for the 24-nation tournament that doubles as an Olympic qualifier.
Roared on by a record-breaking indoor crowd of 26,135, France thrived on home support as they thumped Turkey 76-53.
A pool of talented NBA-based players made the difference with San Antonio Spurs playmaker Tony Parker pulling the strings for the French.
Twisting and turning as he dished out assists almost at will, quadruple NBA champion Parker galvanized the perimeter shooters while top scorer Nando De Colo collected 15 points in a pacy performance.
The Spaniards, aiming for a fifth successive European podium finish, recovered from a patchy group stage with a resounding 80-66 defeat of Poland on the back of 30 points by Chicago Bulls center Pau Gasol.
The battling Poles held their own in the first half and early in the third quarter before Spain, champions in 2009 and 2011, pulled away.
Poland center Marcin Gortat, plying his trade for the Washington Wizards, praised counterpart Gasol. Continued...