Monday, August 31, 2009
EuroBasket 2009: France Advances After Stomping Belgium
Maybe we'll look back on the French losing to Belgium in the first game of a two-game playoff as a turning point for Les Bleus. Is it possible they needed a kick in the pantalons to realize they weren't going to be able to waltz into EuroBasket 2009? I don't know what happened between the 70-66 loss on Thursday and the 92-54 beating they hung on the Belgians yesterday, but whatever it was, they should keep doing it. By beating Belgium by more than four points, France has official qualified for EuroBasket. Now they'll will have plenty of opportunities to show which team they really are.
From the looks of the play-by-play, Sunday's game was over by midway through the third quarter. The Belgians didn't have the luxury of a rowdy Antwerp crowd this time around as the game was played in Pau, a city in the south of France, and without that advantage, the Belgians couldn't muster the firepower to defeat a vastly superior French team.
Nicolas Batum finished with 8 points on 4-of-5 shooting, 2 rebounds and an assist, which is a pretty nice line for having played just 18 minutes. I'm guessing French coach Vincent Collet decided to let Nic rest his shoulder once the result was locked up.
Ronni Turiaf had another nice game, leading the French with 19 points and 9 rebounds in 21 minutes. Tony Parker (16 points, 4 assists), Boris Diaw (13 points, 6 rebounds), Nando De Colo (13 points, 2 assists) and Ali Traore (12 points) all scored in double figures. Antoine Diot dished out 9 assists for Les Bleus.
With the win, France locks up the final spot in EuroBasket, joining Russia, Latvia and Germany in Group B. It's a tough draw, but manageable nonetheless for a team with as much talent as France. The top three teams advance to the next round, so Les Bleus seem like a good bet to advance to the second stage. They play Germany, who will be without Dirk Nowitzki, a week from today in their opener.
By the way, if I'm reading the tournament bracket correctly, France would have to make it to at least the quarterfinals to have a chance to play Spain.
I'll have a more comprehensive preview of EuroBasket later this week.
(Photo credit: EuroBasket2009.org)