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Tony Parker (France) Photo: Panoramic
FRA/ESP - The big event in Bercy

PARIS (Olympics) - Sunday’s Olympic warm-up game at Paris Bercy was only supposed to be a friendly but when European giants Spain and France square off, it's always a big event.

A boisterous 15,000-strong crowd saw two sides preparing for the London Games trade blows and Spain prevailed, 75-70.

Among those watching were FIBA's Secretary General Patrick Baumann and President, Yvan Mainini, Spanish Basketball Federation (FEB) President Jose Luis Saez, FIBA Europe President Olaf Rafnsson, members of the FIBA Central Board and other members of the FIBA Europe Board as well as the President of the French National Olympic Committee, Denis Masseglia.

"Considering that the game was only a friendly, the huge turnout was a true testament to the popularity of the sport," said Baumann.

"It also served as an indication of the great work being done by both the French and Spanish (Basketball) Federations."

What these leading figures of basketball's governance and the other spectators witnessed was a spectacle.

Pau Gasol, the MVP of the 2006 FIBA World Championship and EuroBasket 2009, the EuroBasket 2011 MVP Juan Carlos Navarro and shot-blocking extraordinaire Serge Ibaka all played for Spain, while for France there were Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum and recently crowned NBA champion Ronny Turiaf of the Miami Heat.

The arena buzzed from start to finish.

“The atmosphere was fantastic,” Parker said.

“It had been a long time since I wanted to play with the national team in Bercy.”

The French led 39-37 at half-time but Spain outscored the hosts 12-3 in the first five minutes of the third quarter and kept their noses in front the rest of the way.

Gasol had 22 points and Ibaka 16 to lead the Spanish, while Kevin Seraphin poured in 12 for Les Bleus.

In a game that had 15 lead changes, one of the most important statistics was the rebounding.

Spain dominated the boards, 46-26, with Gasol and Ibaka each pulling down 10 apiece.

France do not have their starting center from the team that reached last year's EuroBasket Final, Joakim Noah, because of injury and they are relying heavily on Turiaf, who had eight rebounds.

No other player in the team had more than four boards, though, so that will be a concern for French coach Vincent Collet with the Olympic Games quickly approaching.

The sight of Navarro was pleasing for all of Spain’s fans because the Barcelona star has been carrying some knocks that have raised concerns about his participation in London.

"I was a bit nervous at the start because I had been a few days without competing,” Navarro said.

“I played six minutes which was what had been agreed and I felt very well. I felt a bit of pain there but it's normal and I hope it will go away soon.”

Spain are deemed to be the biggest threat to defending champions Team USA.

"It has been a very interesting and very useful game,” Spain coach Sergio Scariolo said.

“There was a great atmosphere, that obviously supported the rival team but I think this is good for us to take a step forward in our preparation considering the opposition and their physical characteristics.”

Navarro agreed that the clash with France in enemy territory was just what Spain needed.

"At the Olympics, we will face very physical and tough games,” he said.

“Today's game did not seem like a friendly but we have come out winners and it was a good test."

Spain did not have Marc Gasol, the younger of the Gasol brothers.

He missed the game with a shoulder injury he picked up on Friday.

The French Basketball Federation is celebrating its 80th anniversary - something FIBA did on 18 June - and a win would have been preferred.

But the defeat for Les Bleus took none of the shine off the glitzy Olympic warm-up.


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