MANILA, Philippines – When France takes on the Philippines on July 5, they will know a thing or two about defending the homecourt and not taking care of business.
The French held serve at Montpellier, going undefeated at 5-0 in group play. In the knockout stages of EuroBasket 2015, they crushed both Turkey and Latvia to set up a semifinals clash versus Spain. A win meant they would automatically qualify for the Olympics.
It looked like they had enough to hold off Pau Gasol and company as they led for 3 quarters. Spain forced overtime, where Gasol continued his strong play. A putback dunk gave the Spaniards a shocking 78-75 lead with 18 seconds left.
France’s Nicolas Batum was fouled attempting a 3-pointer. Instead of leveling the match, Batum, to the shock of the 27,000 spectators at the Pierre Mauroy Stadium in Lille, missed all 3 free throws.
Spain rebounded and Gasol scored the last basket to stun France.
And now, the road for Les Bleus has to go through Manila, in battles against the Philippines as well as New Zealand.
They will have to do it without center Rudy Gobert, who finished with 8 points and 13 rebounds in the loss to Spain, and Evan Fournier, who battled foul trouble and finished with only 3 points.
Batum has been training with the team but the decision to suit up won’t be known until month’s end. Ian Mahinmi has likewise made himself unavailable, depriving France of another tall body.
Despite two tune-up matches where France lost both times to Serbia, Les Bleus’ coach Vince Collet was pleased with the development of the team.
“What was interesting was that we played a match of the highest level. There was intensity and strong defensive efforts,” said Collet. “We had a mobility which was really interesting and I hope we keep it.”
French power forward Joffrey Lauvergne, who finished the friendly match with 14 points, also liked his team’s progress despite missing 4 key players.
“France and Serbia are teams of a very similar level and the Serbs are always ready long before the start of the competitions so this is very positive for us tonight. Given our late preparation, we can only be satisfied with what we have done until now. We must continue to make the most out of each workout.” – Rappler.com
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