SAITAMA, JAPAN—Now we know why the Raptors signed Jorge Garbajosa this summer.
With centre Pau Gasol out with a broken foot and two Spanish big men in early foul trouble, the burden fell upon the 6-foot-9 Garbajosa. He responded with the game of his life, leading Spain to its first world basketball championship with 20 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Early on, he nailed a trio of threes to open a 35-16 lead. Later threes killed any chance of a Greek rally. Anchoring the defence, he outmuscled Greek frontmen Lazaros Papadopoulos and 330-pound Sofoklis Schortsanitis, holding them to two points each. He blocked the path of driving Greek guards who had pick-and-rolled Team USA at will on Friday. “We played our best game ever in the finals tonight,” Garbajosa, wrapped in a Spanish flag, said after the game. “I’m so happy for me, my teammates, my family and the rest of Spain.”He was named to the tournament all-star team with Theo Papaloukas of Greece and NBA stars Carmelo Anthony, Manu Ginobili and tournament MVP Gasol.
Garbajosa had struggled with shooting in earlier games but found the mark in beating Argentina in the semis and Greece 70-47 in the final. “I like to take shots outside,” he said. “It wasn’t planned. It just happened during the game. I was really disappointed in earlier games. But my teammates gave me confidence and told me to take shots. The difference between teams is so small, we just had to do something different to win.”
His long-time friend and Raptor teammate Jose Calderon had seven points and no turnovers against a clever Greek press averaging more than 20 per game. Heading Spain’s aggressive, ball-hawking defence, he forced errant passes and held Houston Rockets’ guard Vasilis Spanoulis to four points. “It’s the best day of my life and a historic win for Spain,” said Calderon.