Surprise! Tony started, pushing Nando over to the 2 position, where he knocked down a three on the first possession. Otherwise, no surprises among the starters.
A rusty Tony left the game after five minutes (and never returned), leaving the point to Nando, with Fabien Causeur coming in at the 2 slot. No defense at all on the French end... The Brits shot at ease... neither Ronny Turiaf nor Kevin Seraphin accomplishing much inside.
A couple nice mid-range jumpers from Gelabale.
Two "Boris specials": difficult passes instead of easy shots... and two turnovers.
15 - 24 first quarter. Lookin' very bad!Second period like the first: BAD defense. Small ball with Boris at 5 and Flo at 4. Very experimental. Why?? Sometimes Coach Vincent Collet mystifies me.
Nobody could buy a bucket -- zero eval with two minutes to play in the half! Meanwhile, the British played simply, moving the ball around the perimeter and getting good looks... and hitting them. Add to that some missed free throws and Collet had work to do at the half: 25 - 43. Ugly!
Somebody was going to have to do some scoring... The half-time shooting stats were pitiful! Nobody looked good, but Boris did score a bit and Nando ran the point decently.
The third quarter was... not "better"... but less awful. The defense turned up the intensity a couple notches, and spread out a few yards. The Brits' passing suddenly went south.
Boris drove a couple, as did Nando. Kevin hit a couple inside, getting some good low post passes from Flo at the high post. Les Bleus scored twenty...and allowed only ten. Back in the game, 45 - 53 after three quarters.
The fourth quarter was dominated by two players who weren't even supposed to be there. Ali Traoré is still in Russia, supposedly nursing an injury, so Collet called up... "just for scrimmage"... 6'7" physical phenom forward Yakhouba Diawara, who plays in Italy. With Tony and Nando (who was in San Antonio, strutting his stuff for Pop) both absent, Collet also called up 19-year-old point guard Léo Westerman, also "just for scrimmage". While I don't see much chance of Léo sticking around for London, I wouldn't be so sure about Yak!
Diawara blew the fourth quarter open, with a couple of three pointers and a couple of drives... while sharing defensive responsibility on Deng with Flo Pietrus. Deng had carried his team for three quarters, but a game lasts four quarters. 63 - 66 with 6:30 remaining.
Westerman was cool at the point, controlling the tempo. He's going to Italy next year, but the staff will surely keep a close eye on him.
Flo to Kevin again, high post / low post! France -2.
Kevin tied it at 68; four minutes to play... Back and forth a couple times with no scoring... and then... when you really, really, REALLY needed to score... Boris drove for 2 + 1.
Flo's defense on Luol Deng pushed the Bull into getting blocked by the rim!
End-game: Brits had to foul... Flo hit his free throws... Deng charged ... Brits fouled... Flo and Westerman hit their free throws and France won 79 - 74.
What's to be learned?
* Boris was top scorer (with Flo) despite limited minutes. That's good.
* The team was down 20 to a no-more-than-decent British squad. That's bad.
* The team came back from -20. That mitigates...
* Mikaël Gelabale looked good physically, way up there on the boards, but he missed his threes.
* Fabien Causeur drove only once, and didn't hit a single three -- I think he tried only once. That's not enough. Les Bleus need outside shooting. Causeur must produce. He's going to Vittoria, one of the top Spanish teams this coming season... so he had better be good!
* Nando drove well, and shot well enough from outside to keep any defender honest. Considering that he just got off the plane from SA, he looked pretty good.
* Kevin was clearly more effective than Ronny; good relations with Flo at the 4 spot. Good boards, too.
* Ali Traoré had better hurry to catch up with the team. Yak looked awfully good!
But... it was "just a preparation game", of course... The next game will be Spain at Madrid, on Tuesday. Different level altogether! Les Bleus had better start playing at the opening tip-off. Nobody comes back from -20 against the Spanish Armada.