The 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup hosted by China has concluded on Sunday, 15 September 2019, with Spain national team defeating Argentine national team in the final by 95-75. Spain has also won its second FIBA World Cup Championship since 2006. In the previous 2006 FIBA Basketball World Cup held in Japan, Spain national team beat Greece in the final by 70-47, in which there are only two player in the current championship team.
During Sunday’s final game of the tournament, the Spanish team led the score in each of the four quarters: 23-14, 20-17, 23-16, 29-28. Throughout the game, they did not give their opponents any opportunity to catch up with the score. Air-tight defense and highly efficient offense were their keys to victory.
In the early minutes of the first quarter, Spain took the strategy of making full use of 24-second offense time; they set their lead early in the game by coupling their pace with great efficiency. On top of that, Spain’s defense was also very tight, which disrupted Argentina’s offense tactics to a great extent.
With 6 minutes and 4 seconds left in the first quarter, Spain had a commanding 14-2 lead. At this Critical moment, Argentina managed to make two consecutive three-pointers to narrow the gap. At the same time, Argentina also strengthened its defense, frequently launching defensive counterattacks to score.
Argentina quickly answered with a 11-0 scoring wave, and almost tied the game at 13-14. Again, Spain took advantage of its crushing defense and effective offense, expanded the lead again; Spain went on a 9-0 run to take a 23-14 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Entering the second quarter, Spain continued their highly efficient performance by a 8-0 run, leading by 17 points at 31-14. On Argentina’s side, they made some critical shots afterwards to narrow the gap and to prevent from collapsing. Still, Spain had a comfortable 43-31 lead in the half time.
In the opening of the third quarter, Spain performed even better in both offense and defense than they did in the first half, allowing Argentina to score only 2 points in the first 6 minutes of this quarter. At the same time, Spain’s offenses were methodical and orderly, they further expanded their lead to 22 points with a 12-2 scoring wave halfway in the thrid quarter. Spain led by 66-47 after the third quarter.
Facing the huge deficit (down by 19 points) entering the final quarter, Argentina behaved unusually tenacious, and fought hard to catch up. Argentina once got close at 54-68 with 7 minutes and 27 seconds left for the game. However, with a few key shots made by the Spanish side, their lead was maintained to the end of the game.
Throughout the game, Spanish player Ricky Rubio led the whole team in score with 20 points, shooting 6-for-11 from the field. His teammate, 34-year-old veteran Marc Gasol had 14 points, but only 2-for-9 from the field. On the other side, Argentina’s Gabriel Deck led the team with 24 points. Luis Scola, the 39-year-old veteran who had a 19.3-point average over the previous seven games of the tournament, finished with mere 8 points, and just 1-for-10 from the field.
Interestingly, for Spanish center Marc Gasol, this is his second championship in less than three months; Gasol just won his first ever NBA Championship along with the Toronto Raptors in June 2019. And he also becomes the second player to win both an NBA champion and a FIBA world cup champion in the same year (NBA player Lamar Odom from Los Angeles Lakers did the same in 2010).
In retrospect, Spain’s ascension to the final was not all that easy or smooth. As a team being labeled as warming up slowly, they are usually the ones who fight the uphill struggle, or make the comeback, which exemplified in their games with Italy and with Australia in the semi-final.
In their game with Italy in the quarter-final, both sides shot very poorly, and they almost tied after each of the first three quarters: 18-18, 30-31, 50-48 (Spain on the left); Spain took the final edge until it was down to the wire.
In the semi-final with Australia, they once down by as many as 11 points in the third quarter, and almost lost during the regular time; eventually won the game after a stunning double-overtime.
On the other hand, in the bronze medal game, France national team came back from a 15-point deficit in the third quarter, and defeated Australia by 67-59. France also tied their best performance in the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
With the conclusion of the tournament, seven national teams, namely Spain, Argentina, France, Australia, United States, Iran as well as Nigeria, have secured their qualifications for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. As the host country, Japan is qualified automatically. The other four national teams, which would be competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as well, are going to be determined by a qualifying tournament to be held in the June of 2020.