Spain takes lead over Lithuania behind in basketball world championship quarterfinal

Pau Gasol scored 25 points and nine rebounds and Spain used another impressive performance to beat Lithuania 89-67 Tuesday to advance to the world basketball championship's semifinals for the second time, the AP says.

Spain (7-0) will play Friday against the winner of the Argentina-Turkey game.

"The team who beats us is the team that plays really well," Spain coach Pepu Hernandez said. "We know we can lose if we don't do the right job and be the team we have been until this moment. They can beat us, but it will be difficult."

No one has come close yet. The closest any team has come was Angola, which lost 93-83 in the opening round.

Juan Carlos Navarro added 22 points for Spain, which finished fourth in 1982 in its only other semifinal appearance.

"This game was much easier than we expected probably because of the way we established our rhythm and kept it up and did not allow Lithuania to ever get in the game," Navarro said. "We will do our best to make history. In front of us is a great opportunity and we have to try and take advantage because you don't get many chances."

Spain came into the game with an average margin of victory of 25 points, and it led this game 76-49 with five minutes to play when the reserves took over.

Memphis Grizzlies center Gasol came into the game averaging 21 points and 9.2 rebounds while shooting 65 percent from the field. He was 8-for-14 from the field Tuesday and 9-for-12 from the free throw line.

Darius Lavrinovic had 17 points to lead Lithuania (4-3), which never recovered from another one of Spain's bursts, this one a 15-0 run that spanned the first and second quarters.

Lavrinovic scored down low with 3:53 left in the first quarter to bring Lithuania within 17-11. Lithuania wouldn't score again for 5:33, missing eight shots and committing six turnovers as Spain turned up the defensive pressure and scored again and again on breakaway layups and dunks.

Linas Kleiza, who plays for the Denver Nuggets, finally broke Lithuania's drought with a tip-in with 8:20 left in the first half, cutting Spain's lead to 32-13. Spain led 47-30 at halftime and opened the second half with a 7-0 run, forcing three turnovers in the first two minutes.

"They could not get into the game with the best moment of Spanish defense," Hernandez said. "Maybe 30 percent of our defense is strategy. The rest is the mentality and the work of the players on the court."

Navarro had four of Spain's five 3-pointers and Gasol was dominant inside as Spain pulled away to another easy win. The closest any team has come was Angola, which lost 93-83 in the opening round.

Spain finished with 17 steals and forced Lithuania into 28 turnovers, nine more than its average over the first six games.

Lithuania, a young team that wasn't given much of a chance at a medal entering the tournament, surprised Italy in the second round to reach the quarterfinals.

"We brought a young team and we learned a lot. This can only make us better," said Kleiza, who had 15 points and 14 rebounds. "They ran straight at us."

Lithuania coach Antanas Sireika didn't want to use major international inexperience as an excuse.

"We did not prepare mentally for this game," he said. "In a game as important as this, you cannot make 28 turnovers and expect to get away with it. We still have a long way to go before becoming a strong team. We have a lot of work to do."

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