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Suns’ Ricky Rubio boosts Spain to FIBA World Cup Championship

Patricio Garino of Argentina is tackled by Ricky Rubio of Spain during their FIBA Basketball World Cup Final, at the Cadillac Arena in Beijing, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

BEIJING (AP) — Marc Gasol looked to the sky as confetti fell, some sticking to his massive shoulders, and then cradled and kissed the giant golden chalice that goes to the World Cup champions.

He’s getting good at hoisting trophies.

Gasol got to bask in a championship celebration for the second time in three months — and this time, he did it for his country. Tournament MVP Ricky Rubio scored 20 points, Sergio Llull added 15 and Spain won the World Cup for the second time by topping Argentina 95-75 on Sunday.

Gasol scored 14 for the winners, who never trailed and added this crown to the one it claimed in 2006. And for him, 2019 will go down as a year the likes of which few others have enjoyed.

The Toronto Raptors center becomes the second player to win an NBA title and a FIBA world gold medal in the same year, joining Lamar Odom — who did it for the Los Angeles Lakers and USA Basketball in 2010. Gasol also became the 19th to win either an NBA or WNBA crown along with a gold medal, either of the Olympic or World Cup variety, in the same year.

The first 18 all did it for the U.S.

This time, Vamos España!

Llull and Rudy Fernandez — the team captain, the one who initially got to accept the Naismith Trophy — went to cut down the nets shortly after the final buzzer. Gasol carried the game ball to the gold-medal ceremony, and Spanish fans wept in the stands during the national anthem.

Gabriel Deck scored 24 points for Argentina (8-1), which got off to a slow start and played uphill the rest of the way. Luis Scola was held to eight points, shooting 1 for 10 from the floor.

Spain led 43-31 at the half, riding the strength of two big runs.

Spain ran out to a quick 14-2 lead, only to have Argentina answer with an 11-0 spurt. But when that ended, Spain came back with a 17-1 run and took what was then its biggest lead at 31-14.

Scola, even at 39 years old still Argentina’s best player throughout the tournament, didn’t get on the scoresheet until he made a pair of free throws with 2:57 left in the third. But they only cut the Spain lead to 19, and by then the Argentinian fans — who stood in the stands a few rows from their team’s bench, singing and chanting for much of the game — were relatively quiet.

The day belonged to Spain.

And the year belongs to Gasol.

TIP-INS

Argentina: This was the third FIBA World Cup medal for Argentina, making it the fifth nation with that many after the United States (12), Yugoslavia (10), the Soviet Union (eight) and Brazil (six). Another four nations have two medals, including Spain. … Argentina fell to 2-8 all-time against Spain in World Cup or Olympic competition.

Spain: It was the fourth consecutive FIBA title game to be decided by double digits. … It was also a double-title year for Spain coach Sergio Scariolo; he’s an assistant on Nick Nurse’s staff in Toronto.

Everything went Spain’s way early — even air balls. Rudy Fernandez took a corner 3 that sailed long by about two feet, landing in the hands of Juancho Hernangomez. He laid in the miss to start a three-point play, part of Spain’s 14-2 game-opening run.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM

Joining Rubio on the all-tournament team were Gasol, Scola, France’s Evan Fournier and Serbia’s Bogdan Bogdanovic.

DIGNITARIES

Among the big names in attendance on the final day of the World Cup: Chinese basketball legend Yao Ming, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, FIBA ambassador and five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant, and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili — both four-time NBA champions with San Antonio.

5 WITH 2

Spain is the fifth nation to win the World Cup (or its predecessor, the world championship) at least twice. The U.S. and Yugoslavia are five-time champions, the Soviet Union won three titles and Brazil has won two.

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