By Chris Sheridan
VILNIUS, Lithuania — Not much of a match between Spain and Serbia this afternoon, the most interesting moment of the 84-59 victory coming midway through the second half when Rudy Fernandez was benched by his coach for picking up a silly technical foul.
Also, coach Sergio Scariolo used Serge Ibaka for only 7 minutes and 43 seconds.
“I am the coach. I don’t have to justify my decision,” Scariolo said. “This is an internal issue, not a press conference issue.”
Pau Gasol (26 points on 9-for-11 shooting) and (Marc Gasol 20 points on 8-for-15 shooting) overwhelmed Serbian centers Nenad Krstic and Kosta Perovic, Juan Carlos Navarro had 14 points, five assists and three steals, and Spain broke the game open in the third quarter by outscoring the Serbs 27-17 for a 70-49 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Rubio’s bucket came in that pivotal third quarter on a drive to the hoop through traffic which he finished with his left hand. He finished 1-for-3 with three assists, no turnovers and two more steals (he has 12, but Andrei Kirilenko of Russia leads the tournament in that category with 18 — 3.0 per game). He has scored only 11 points in Spain’s seven games.
Spain can move into a first-place tie atop Group E if Lithuania defeats France in tonight’s nightcap.
Spain shot only 5-for-17 on 3-pointers, in line with their 29 percent shooting from behind the arc (38-for-130) in their seven games, but that was about the only thing Scariolo found fault with.
“Today is a day for which we can be fully satisfied. We established immediately a high tempo, we had 10-plus steals, 40 rebounds and 20-plus assists, and those numbers are synonymous with winning,” Scariolo said. ”The 3-point shot is a small concern. That is the last point we are missing so far, but it can com at any time. This was a step forward, and a really big one for how we did it tonight.”