GB lose to defending champions Spain at Eurobasket
MEN'S EUROPEAN BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS
- 31 August-18 September
- GB Games live on bbc.co.uk/sport and BBC Red Button (not Freeview). Daily highlights on bbc.co.uk/sport. Updates on 5 Live.
Great Britain's improved performance in their third Eurobasket game was not enough to prevent an 86-69 defeat by European champions Spain.
Luol Deng hit 17 points, including his 500th for GB, and Dan Clark 14 but GB are on the brink of being eliminated from the tournament in Lithuania.
Spain led by eight points at half-time and a 16-6 run clinched the game.
GB now have to win their last two games, against Poland and Portugal, and hope for other results to go their way.
GB displayed all the energy they had lacked against Turkey from the start and once they solved their early scoring problems, they stayed with their illustrious opponents, six of whom are current or former NBA players, for the whole of the first half.
Deng, Nate Reinking and Clark all hit threes as GB closed out the first quarter 9-4 to trail 19-16 and Clark's second three gave them their first lead early in the second period.
Spain's response was a 14-4 run, but Deng, whose 500th point for his country came in only his 30th game, hit a three late in the half to have GB trailing 38-32 at the interval.
Spain played to their inside strengths after the break, reaping the rewards from NBA giants Pau and Marc Gasol, who combined for 18 successive points as the holders opened a 56-40 lead. Against that, GB mustered only 13 points in the third quarter.
Coach Chris Finch felt the team could have done more to stop the Gasols, who combined to score 39 of Spain's points.
"The disappointing thing for me is that most of our experience at this level is inside [close to the basket]," Finch said. "In the third quarter we didn't really compete in the inside.
"We conceded 56 points inside and a lot of that was 'punch you in the mouth and stick in the basket' and that's just not acceptable. We've got to more determined than that."
"I thought the first half was probably the best basketball we've played since we've been here in Lithuania," said Clark afterwards. "But in the second half we came out sloppy and slow."
Spain's first 20-point lead arrived with seven minutes remaining, ending the match as a contest and leaving GB needing other results and some slide-rule calculations to go their way in their final two games against Portugal and Poland.
Those games come after a rest day which the players will relish after three games in three days - a start to the tournament Finch described as "the toughest of any team in the tournament".
"We just need that breakthrough that takes us in the right direction - hopefully that tipping point isn't far away," said Reinking. "We'll just take this rest day off to rest and refocus and after that get a win."