They came in waves. Mantas Kalnietis Renaldas Seibutis even Linas Kleiza. Just as Tony Parker had expected. Just as everyone watching back in France had anticipated from Lithuania with the EuroBasket title on the line. The San Antonio Spurs guard already feeling fatigue in every muscle had prepared his teammates for this right from when they went into the locker room some 46 hours earlier following an exhausting overtime win over Spain in the semifinal. He walked straight over to Nicolas Batum. The Trail Blazers forward had contributed just three points toward the conquest of the reigning champions. "I did everything I could today to win the game" Parker told him. "But I'm going to be tired. I need you to be The Man in the final." "So" said Batum "I was ready to go right from the start to help the team." With an early block on Seibutis. Then a slash to the basket grabbing a precise pass from Boris Diaw and driving it to the hoop. Then with words not deeds he berated Alexis Ajinca for a blown play. The margins against an opponent in supreme form did not allow for mistakes. Kleiza the former Toronto Raptors forward was throwing everything he could. Five shots five makes 11 of his eventual game-high 20 points in the opening quarter. "Both teams were scoring too easily" said Batum who led France with 17 points while Boris Diaw added 15 in the 80-66 EuroBasket championship win Sunday. In a timeout during Lithuania's early run the French started talking about defense. They practiced what was preached. "Then we started running making some big shots" he said. Batum hit a three in the corner in a 7-0 run midway through the second. Then another moments later on the opposite side. For the last 4:02 of the first half they shut down Lithuania hitting 14 straight points. Up 50-34 at the break they were in control. Remarkably incredibly Parker had made just one score. The night before the NBA All-Star had wandered up the corridor of the floor of the high-rise Ljubljana hotel that had been converted into Little France. He had been thinking about the 2011 final when the Spanish ruthlessly crushed his hopes. It troubled him. He knocked on bedroom doors with a message to give.
Batum steps up for crowning moment
ESPN | Sep 23