There aren't many countries that are candidates for both basketball podiums. USA, of course. But then... The Spanish, Argentine and Lithuanian women's teams aren't even going to London. None of the ex-Yugo nations -- Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, ...are present in the men's tournament. Nor are the Turks.
China is in both tournaments and so is Brazil. So yesterday was... instructive... for Les Bleus and for Les Bleues, for the French men's and women's teams.
Brazil is in both tournaments... with ambitions in both. Just like France.
Les françaises -- the women -- blew China off the court in the first quarter with a spectacular offensive display. They rained threes and ran P&R as though the Chinese weren't even present. And they defended. Sixteen point lead, 27 - 11, after one quarter. Game over. The French coach had emptied the bench (an excellent bench) one minute into the second quarter.
From French Coach Pierre Vincent's point of view, there's not a lot to be learned from this game. "If you shoot 65%, you'll probably win!" Duh. The Chinese coach (sorry, didn't catch the name) may have some stuff to think about, though... Final score, 85-64. Australia, today, will be a very different game!
French men's Coach Vincent Collet, on the other hand, has a lot to think about.
OK, France won (78-74). That's good.
France played a serious, solid first half. In particular, France's paint guys held their own off the boards, against Néné, Varejao and Splitter (32 -32 for the whole game). That's good.
The team came back from the locker room with their hands jammed deep into their pockets, and lead soles on their sneakers. Brazil took the third quarter 14-26. That's very bad.
A lineup of bench-players (yeah, yeah, France has a pretty good bench, but still...) led by Nando de Colo went on a 15-2 rip to end the third quarter and start the fourth. Nando hit some key shots, including a falling-out-of-bounds, angle zero Hail Mary that brought the team back to -2. Then he intercepted a Brazilian pass, followed with his own behind-the-back assist for the tying dunk. The come-back blitz was definitely good.
And I guess maybe Nando can play in the NBA! That may not be great news for Coach Collet, considering all the insurance hassles he has had with his NBA players... but it is definitely good news for Spurs fans! ;-)))
Regularity is essential in a short campaign like the Olympics. And Les Bleus very clearly aren't there yet... with one week of preparation left.
Australia -- the men's team is nowhere near as highly ranked as the women's -- in two days.