LONDON (AP) — Marc Gasol scored 14 points, brother Pau had two huge blocked shots and Spain held France scoreless for nearly seven minutes in a 66-59 win Wednesday to advance to the semifinals in Olympic men's basketball.
The Spaniards turned up their defensive pressure in the fourth quarter to take control of the game.
Trailing 57-54 after Nicolas Batum's basket with 6:51 to play, Spain didn't allow another point until Mickael Gelabale's meaningless jumper with 5.5 seconds remaining, ending a two-game losing streak.
Juan Carlos Navarro added 12 points and Pau Gasol 10 for the Spanish, the 2008 silver medalists who advance to play Russia on Friday.
Tony Parker and Boris Diaw each scored 15 points for France, which grew frustrated at the finish and committed two unsportsmanlike fouls in the final half-minute, including Nicholas Batum's punch to the groin of Navarro.
Batum later apologized for the foul on Twitter.
I want to apologize for my stupid act at the end, I showed a bad image of France and myself, Congrats to team Spain.— Nicolas Batum (@nicolas88batum) August 8, 2012
The Spanish took the lead for good when Pau Gasol's blocked shot started a fast break that led to Sergio Llull's dunk, making it 58-57 with 5:36 remaining.
France kept misfiring and Spain kept the speedy Parker from getting into the lane as both teams struggled for offense. The highlight of Spain's defensive stand came when both Rudy Fernandez and Pau Gasol had blocks on the same possession, leading to a shot-clock violation.
Pau Gasol then found Marc on a nice pass through traffic inside, extending Spain's lead to 62-57 with 45 seconds to go.
Ronny Turiaf then sent Fernandez to the sideline with a hard foul, and Batum wound up and swung at Navarro, nearly leading to an altercation. Navarro made one of the free throws, Pau added two more, and Spain's run was up to 12-0 before France scored again.
Spain beat France last year in the European championship game, the kind of high-scoring contest the Spanish usually play. This was a change of pace, a necessary one after their own offensive struggles and coming after two straight poor finishes in this tournament.
Spain hadn't lost an Olympic game to anyone but the United States since 2000 before dropping its last two preliminary round games to Russia and Brazil, the latter coming with speculation it may have been on purpose because it kept the Spanish on the opposite side of the bracket from the U.S.
The Spanish kept hopes alive for the gold-medal game rematch against the Americans, who beat them 118-107 in Beijing.
France had won four straight after losing to the U.S. in its opener and seemed in good shape for much of this one.
The French controlled much of the first half, leading by as many as eight, with Parker's speed giving Spain all sorts of trouble. Diaw, his Spurs teammate, scored 10 points and the French were ahead 37-34 at the break.
Spain came out of the locker room with seven straight, going ahead 41-37 on Marc Gasol's 3-pointer with 7:11 remaining in the third. It remained close throughout the period, France bringing a 53-51 edge to the fourth.