Nico Batum wants to play. He wants it so badly that he played the first five minutes of this game... despite still having no insurance. Batum has a fifty million dollar contract on the line... and he wanted so badly to participate that he ignored all common sense... and played!
Nico didn't hurt himself, and he showed just why he is needed. While he was on the floor, France had a clear ascendancy, and Les Bleus kept playing eye to eye with the Spanish Armada, even after Nico sagely retired to the bench.
Excellent game! "Preparation"... not so much! This was two contenders for the podium in London, looking to stake out their territory.
Team France never took a significant lead, and Spain, led by a superb Pau Gasol, went to the locker room at the half with a two-point lead.
The start of the second half was fatal to the French. They went five minutes without scoring, and were down a dozen when they started putting the ball in the net again.
France was pretty bad from downtown... and Spain got a ton of second and third shots off offensive boards... and yet... Tony wasn't on, nor was Nando... and yet... A bit of Turiaf here and a bit of Seraphin there. Threes from Fabien and Yak. A drive by Yannick and a couple put-backs by Baback. A monstrous offensive-rebound-slam-put-back by Flo. France slowly came back!
They reached -2 a minute before the final whistle, but the Spaniards have been there before! They hit their foul shots and kept the game.
Tension?? Rudy Fernandez -- who else?? -- provoked a bit of fisticuffs, and got ejected, taking Mikaêl Gelabale along with him. Rudy is a good player, but much less essential for bench-rich Spain than Gelabale is for France, so I hope that Mike reflects on how Rudy manipulated him.
Were the Spaniards upset at being so close to losing? With just a few seconds left, José Calderon needlessly and dangerously took down Fabien Causeur. And the French bench was grinning as if they had won.
The stage is well set for the next meeting!