China is not a good team, individually or collectively. In particular, they lack backcourt players capable of creating, either for themselves or for their teammates. On the other hand, China runs a lot and is tall. Rudy Gobert doesn't often meet teams with two players his size and several others pretty close.
Team France needed a good game. Not to win; the difference in quality between the two teams was great enough that the outcome was pretty much a foregone conclusion. Les Bleus needed a good game to reassure themselves, after their pitiful outing against Australia.
Pounders will remember Nando de Colo, a guard who "never quite attained the level" with the Spurs. He didn't do any better in Toronto, so he returned to Europe where he signed with Euroleague powerhouse CSKA Moscow. There he slid over to the two-guard slot, leaving the playmaking to Serbian Miloš Teodosić, a first-rate playmaker ans scorer. Since arriving in Moscow, Nando's role has grown constantly. This last season he was Euroleague MVP and top scorer. CSKA won the title.
Nando's lack of success in the NBA is surely due to many factors, but the most important is his style of play. The NBA is often times a one-on-one league, and Nando is not a one-on-one player. He moves constantly, creating opportunities for himself and his team, but if his teammates aren't primed to exploit the those opportunities, they are a waste of everyone's time.
When Nando is lead scorer for his team, CSKA or France, it is proof that the team is playing together, working for one another. He led les Bleus last night, with 19.
Team France started the game as it had played against Australia: with butterfingers. China was soon up by six. Tony had as many turnovers as baskets. Boris had as many turnovers as assists. For five minutes, it looked like the Australian nightmare would continue. But it did not.
First, les Bleus locked in their defense. China scored 10 in the first five minutes, then 4 in the next five minutes. And 9 in the whole second quarter. Nico Batum and Rudy Gobert did their shot-blocking gig -- Rudy would have six or seven for the game. Rotations were quick on the perimeter -- the Chinese can shoot 3s. Lacking slashers, China had no answer to France's anywhere-on-the-floor double-teams.
Coach Collet started rotating his bench in the middle of the first quarter, Tony being the first to leave, in favor of Thomas Heurtel, another Euroleague star, who plays in Turkey. By the end of the first quarter, only Captain Boris was still on the floor, and he rotated out shortly into the second period. By the end of the first quarter, the French were up 19 - 14.
Gradually les Bleus started moving bodies and the ball, getting open looks, and hitting them. Some fast breaks and transition play. Some 3s. The second quarter was a 23 - 9 rout, and the rest of the game was dedicated to giving everyone floor time, and running out the clock. Aside from a few lazy minutes at the end of the third quarter, les Bleus dominated all the way to the end.
Lessons learned in the 88-60 victory:
- China isn't very good.
- Nando is the bellweather. (Australia had targeted Nando; China did not.)
- Rudy is a monster on defense.
- Nico can do everything... but doesn't always. This time he did.
- Tony is Tony and Boris is Boris.
- Joffrey Lauvergne (Denver Nuggets) is not quite good enough inside. Nor is Kim Tillie (Spanish League). Ian Mahinmi is... not in Rio.
- Antoine Diot is far from good enough. Evan Fournier is... not in Rio.