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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gasol Propels Spain Past Russia

SODERTALJE, Sweden -- Gold-medal contender Spain stayed unbeaten as Pau Gasol scored 31 of his 35 points in the first half en route to a 89-77 win over Russia in the European Basketball Championships on Saturday.

Spain took its second win in group C, after routing Sweden 99-52 Friday, to stay unbeaten.

Gasol, rookie of the year in the NBA with the Memphis Grizzlies two seasons ago, was unstoppable before the interval, when he and guard Juan Carlos Navarro combined for 43 of the team's 51 points.

In less than five minutes, Russia's center Mikhail Soloviev, trying to defend Gasol, was on his way out with four fouls.

"Gasol is a big star," said Russian coach Sergei Yelevich, whose team upset defending European and world champion Serbia and Montenegro 95-80 in the Group C opener Friday. "He [Gasol] ... and our poor shooting decided the outcome of the game."

Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko was held to eight points in the three first quarters, shooting 3 for 10 from the field, and 2 for 6 from the foul line.

He led Russia with 26 points, but 18 of those points came in the last quarter with the outcome decided.

NBA all star Peja Stojakovic scored 23 points, leading Serbia and Montenegro to a 78-68 victory over host nation Sweden in the other Group C game. The defending champions are 1-1; Sweden fell to 0-2. Former Oklahoma State standout Fredrik Jonzen led Sweden with 18 points.

In other action, Tariq Abdul-Wahad, the first Frenchman ever in the NBA, scored 16 points as France routed Italy 85-52 Saturday to stay unbeaten as well.

With former Boston Celtics great Larry Bird watching from the VIP section at the Coop Arena, the 2000 Olympic silver medalist showed why it is the favorite to finally win a Euro title.

Italy stuck around in the first quarter, trailing at the end by 21-18. Then Les Bleus took complete command, leading 39-27 at the half.

"For me the score was too big," said guard Makan Dioumassi, one of the French silver medalists in Sydney. "Italy has a very good team. I don't know what happened, but we're happy to win."

It was the biggest blowout between the two countries in the Europeans since they first met at the inaugural tournament in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1935 when the event was held outdoors.

No wonder Bird left in the third quarter with France ahead 61-41.

"No comments," said Bird, who arrived early Saturday to this coastal town south of the Arctic Circle after a long flight from Indianapolis, where he's the president of basketball operations for the Pacers.

Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs, the first Frenchman to win an NBA title, spent much of the fourth quarter on the bench and finished with 10 points.

Jerome Moiso of the Toronto Raptors and Boris Diaw of the Atlanta Hawks scored four and two points, respectively. Nikola Radulovic led Italy with 18 points.

At Norrkoping, Germany needed a 32-point effort from NBA star Dirk Nowitzki to fend off Latvia 94-86 in Group B, after almost blowing a big lead in the fourth quarter for the second straight game.

Latvia climbed back from a 16-point deficit to cut it to four at 85-81 with less than three minutes left of the game. German point guard Mithat Demirel then took over the game, scoring the last nine points for his team as the Latvians ran out of steam.

Nowitzki also led his team in rebounds, pulling down nine boards, all on the defensive glass. The Dallas Mavericks' forward shot 8 of 19 from the field and also hit 14 of 17 free throws.

Demirel scored 18 points the German team, and Ademola Okulaja had 16.

Ainars Bagatskis led Latvia with 18.