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France forward Nicolas Batum punched Spain guard Juan Carlos Navarro in the groin with 23 seconds left in Spain's 66-59 win during quarterfinal play in the men's basketball tournament at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
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Moments earlier, with Spain leading by five, less than 30 seconds left on the clock and France needing to foul to extend the game, France center Ronny Turiaf delivered a hard foul to Spain swingman Rudy Fernandez, knocking him out of bounds. While the contact was solid, Fernandez did appear to accentuate its effects a bit, writhing in agony on the sideline until well after Turiaf, who fouled out on the play, exited the floor. The officials deemed Turiaf's hit an "unsportsmanlike foul," granting Spain two free throws — as Fernandez laid on the ground with an ice pack on his lower back, teammate Jose Calderon hit one of two from the line — and possession of the ball.
After the free throws and a Spanish timeout, France once again needed to foul, and this time, there was no question about Batum's intent, as he raced toward Navarro, cocked back his right fist and hauled off. Charitable sorts might have given Batum the benefit of the doubt by suggesting that he was trying to dislodge the basketball, which Navarro held below his waist, but the closed fist and the look on Batum's face told a different tale — one he backed up when asked about the play after the game.
"I wanted to give him a good reason to flop," Batum told Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
After Navarro hit the deck, teammates Calderon and Pau Gasol raced to confront Batum, followed by France's Mickael Gelabale and Boris Diaw, as the two teams commenced pushing and shoving. An enraged Batum grabbed a handful of Calderon's jersey and appeared ready to escalate matters before Diaw and NBA official Bill Kennedy hauled him away; Calderon merely smiled and laughed.
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Amazingly, the refs didn't eject Batum for his punch; instead, after tensions abated (somewhat), they called him for another unsportsmanlike foul call, with Navarro hitting one of two free throws and Spain retaining possession.
The incident comes less than one month after Fernandez and Gelabale faced off in an altercation during a pre-Olympics exhibition match between the two teams, and just two days after Argentina point guard Facundo Campazzo delivered a low blow to Team USA's Carmelo Anthony during their final group-play game.
Spain now moves on to face Russia in the semifinals, with the winner earning a chance to play for a gold medal on Sunday. Russia defeated Lithuania, 83-74, in Wednesday's first game. The loss ends France's bid for its first Olympic men's basketball medal since earning silver 2000. Spain also defeated France in the gold-medal game of the 2011 EuroBasket tournament last September.
The ugly incident capped a bad game for Batum, who missed nine of his 12 field-goal attempts and finished with nine points and five rebounds in more than 32 minutes of action. Tony Parker and Boris Diaw each scored 15 points to lead France, while brothers Marc Gasol (14 points, eight rebounds) and Pau Gasol (10 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, one block) paced Spain.
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- Sports & Recreation
- Nicolas Batum
- Juan Carlos Navarro
- Rudy Fernandez
- Boris Diaw