Gobert recalls painful final experience and surprising Doncic's elimination

Donatas Urbonas
Senior Staff Writer
2022-09-18 06:30

Before the upcoming EuroBasket 2022 final, Rudy Gobert takes a look back at the gold medal game in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the surprising exits of Slovenia, Greece, and Serbia in this year's European championship.

Credit: FIBA

There's no better motivation than a painful final experience. Rudy Gobert faces his second-ever final with the senior national team. But this time, he expects a different outcome for Sunday's EuroBasket 2022 clash vs. Spain.

With five minutes to play, France went neck to neck with Team USA 70-73 for the Olympics gold.

However, Damian Lillard, Jrue Holiday, and Jayson Tatum drained a few long-distance shots and vanished French Olympic gold dream.

Gobert, who scored 16 points on 5 of 5 shooting but was only 6 of 13 from the free throw line, got emotional after the final whistle.

"I don't like to lose. It doesn't feel good to lose finals. That's the lesson I've got," Gobert recalled a painful final experience. "We got to give everything we got."

How does Gobert get up after the first final loss with the national team?

"We think about things we could have done better. It was not a great feeling, but that's always a motivating feeling. There are things we worked on a lot individually and collectively, all the things that we worked really hard on. Now it's a good opportunity to play our best basketball. No regrets," Gobert said.

Eight current roster players brought that motivating feel from the last year's final.

However, they're missing two veterans who played crucial roles in the silver medal campaign.

"We got eight guys, but we lost two, who were really important and most experienced players. It's Nando and Nico," Gobert said.

Nando De Colo orchestrated French's offense (13.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 6.5 APG), while Nicolas Batum did many different things, including an iconic block in semis (7.7 PPG, 6 RPB, 2.8 APG).

"It's the same group, but at the same time totally different. Chemistry as a group was really different. We're a much younger group now," Gobert added.

Credit FIBA

However, this young group matured through the adversities they faced in the last couple of weeks.

Luckily they had fortune on their side. As colleagues from the French sports newspaper L'Equipe put it in the headline, France went through the Boulevard of dreams.

First, Cedi Osman and the Turkish national team passed on a golden opportunity to defeat France in the Round of 16 with two missed free throws and a lost ball after an unsportsmanlike foul.

Simone Fontecchio, an 89% free throw shooter, missed both from the line and the opportunity to clinch the victory for Italy in the quarterfinals.

Instead of Slovenia and Luka Doncic, France faced the cinderella of the EuroBasket Poland. Les Bleus rolled over the Polish team by a historical margin of 95-54.

"I was impressed how they were playing," Gobert was surprised watching Poland creating an upset of the tournament against Slovenia. "We know that any team and player can make something happen at any given time. But I was really impressed. Slovenia came back and got the lead, but Poland didn't give up. They kept playing, making plays, and putting themselves in a position to win. It says a lot."

"But the heart of their team says a lot about basketball and sports. Anything can happen. And that's the beauty of it," he added.

Gobert remains a single NBA All-Star who made the EuroBasket semifinals. 

"In one game, anything can happen. It's not like the playoff series when you play the same team up to seven times. It's just one game," Gobert tried to explain why Greece with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Slovenia with Luka Doncic, and Serbia with Nikola Jokic failed to meet expectations.

"In one game, one team playing a great team game, few guys getting hot, and anything can happen. We saw it in this tournament," he added. "We almost lost twice, too, so it's the beauty of it. That anything can happen."

This EuroBasket made all the predictions useless. Let's see what the final game on Sunday brings to wrap up this unforgettable tournament.

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