Author`s name Alex Naumov

Russia beats France paving the way to European Basketball Championship semifinals

Russia beats France 75-71 in a nerve-breaking quarter-final to make the semifinals at the European Basketball Championship on Thursday.

At the previous four championships, Russia had crashed out in the quarter-finals, but they remained cool in the closing minutes to overturn the 2005 bronze medallist who held a narrow lead through most of the game.

Victor Khryapa scored most for Russia with 16 points and seven rebounds, and Jon Robert Holden added with 15, and Nikita Morgunov with 14.

France's Boris Diaw notched a game-high 17 points and added sixre bounds, while Tony Parker ended with 15 points, Xinhua reports.

American J.R. Holden managed to get himself isolated on the perimeter against Florent Pietrus of France, drove past him and was fouled with 23 seconds left. Holden's two free throws broke a 69-69 tie and gave Russia the lead.

As big as Holden's free throws were, there was plenty more drama to come -- none of it good for France.

A timeout was called after Holden put Russia ahead 71-69, and here is what coach David Blatt -- one of the few American coaches plying his trade full-time in Europe -- said he told his team:

"We were not going to leave the ball in the hands of Tony Parker to make a play, a three-point shot or a three-point play. We were going to trap the ball out of his hands and foul the next guy, and that's exactly what we did. We zoned into a high trap, got him to release it and made the foul," Blatt said.

That foul was committed against Boris Diaw just over the midcourt line, and anybody who knows Diaw's EuroBasket history (he went 0-for-11 from the stripe in a game two years ago) can guess what happened next:

"That was the game, but I think J.R.'s play may have been even bigger than that. Because he made a man's play. That wasn't a designed play, but great players make great plays at the right time," Blatt said.

Actually, however, that wasn't the game. Diaw's misses were only the beginning.

Russia 's Zakhar Pashutin grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 11 seconds left, and he in turn pulled a Diaw, missing both shots.

Parker rebounded and was fouled with 7 seconds left, and went to the line with a chance to tie the game.

The second? Not so good. In fact, it was one of 11 misses in 20 attempts from the line for the French, including three by NBA player Ronny Turiaf just past the midpoint of the final quarter.

Pashutin was fouled with 4.2 seconds left and this time made both, making it a three-point game. The Russians then intentionally fouled Parker in the backcourt with 2 seconds left, preventing the possibility of a game-tying 3-pointer, and leaving Parker with only one option: Try to make the first, and then intentionally miss the second and hope for a tip-in.

Although Parker made the first, his second attempt slammed hard off the backboard and failed to hit the rim -- a violation. Russia then successfully inbounded to Sergei Monia, who wrapped it up by making a pair from the line with eight-tenths of a second left, reports.

Source: agencies