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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Meets Its Match in Spanish Powerhouse

APSpain's Pau Gasol shooting as Dragan Labovic looks on Sunday in Madrid.
MADRID -- Spain ended Russia's unbeaten run at the European Championship 81-69 on Sunday, as both team progressed to the quarterfinals.

But as two of the strongest performers at the tournament so far, each having lost just once, both see each other as potential finalists on Sunday.

"Spain deserved to win they played better. They demonstrated what everyone already thought, that they are the best team in this tournament," Russia coach David Blatt told a news conference.

Toronto Raptors guard Jose Manuel Calderon top scored for Spain with 17 points, while NBA colleagues Pau Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro of the Memphis Grizzlies weighed in with 13 and 15 points respectively.

The compliments flowed in the other direction as well.

Spain coach Pepu Hernandez said: "We have to value this as an important victory because we have played against an extraordinary team.

"It was different to the previous games because we were up against a good team, and the players deserve more credit."

Calderon had Spain's first seven points to start the second half and with help from Jorge Garbajosa -- who finished with 11, the Spanish hiked their lead to 66-51 early in the fourth quarter.

"It was a very complicated game for us, but Spain has the know-how to pull through these types of matches," Calderon said. "The title is still far away ... [but] I think we're going in the direction we want to go."

Russia led 23-20 after the first quarter, but Calderon and Juan Carlos Navarro led a 10-0 run to start the second period put Spain ahead for good.

Russia forward Andrei Kirilenko of the Utah Jazz was unable to dominate to the same degree that he has in previous matches, but still ended up with a game-high 21 points.

Although he only made four rebounds, he continues to lead the tournament rankings with an average of 10.0 per game.

"For me, Russia is one of the candidates for the gold medal, because they are a complete team and we had to make a big effort to win," Spain power forward Jorge Garbajosa told reporters after the game.

Russia will take on Croatia and Spain will play Israel on Tuesday in the shootout for the top spot.

Though Spain and Russia see one another as worthy title rivals, the match that went down to the wire Sunday was Greece's 81-78 victory over the Croatian team. Vassilis Spanoulis hit a 3-pointer in the final second of play to give the defending champions the win.

Marko Popovic sunk two free throws with seven seconds left to pull Croatia into a 78-78 tie with Greece, but Spanoulis dribbled the length of the court, shook off his marker then converted a wide open shot from way behind the 3-point line.

"It was in, I was sure that it was -- it was a good shot," Spanoulis said. "We did the right things to clinch the win in the end ... this is a big win for us."

Dimitrios Diamantidis, who hit several three-point field goals in the final minutes, led Greece with 23 points, while Mario Kasun led Croatia with 15.

Francisco Jordao scored 20 for Portugal, which beat Israel 94-85 to win its third straight game.

"This victory is the confirmation of the work we have done in our preparation and of the attitude we have, which is to go out and win every game," forward Joao Santos said.

Spain and Russia top Group E with seven points, while Greece and Croatia have six each. Israel and Portugal have five apiece.

Reuters, AP