For this big poster of the second day of the group stages of Group B, France and Lithuania find themselves for a duel of teams defeated in the first match. But if the Lithuanians lost arms in hand against a Slovenia saved by its executives, the French failed to make their debut against the host Germany. On paper, the momentum is therefore not in favor of the men of Vincent Collet…
Once again, the Blues miss at the start
The start of the match, as was already the case in preparation against the Czech Republic and against Germany in the first game, is very alarming. Despite a change of five majors made to find offensive creativity and cement the defense on the wings (Thomas Heurtel takes the place of Andrew Albicy, Terry Tarpey who takes that of Elie Okobo) the French players are… apathetic offensively and completely defensively overwhelmed.
Lithuania is thus relying on its leader Rokas Jokubaitis, eager to make people forget their failed first match, and on Jonas Valanciunas near the circle to strike the first shot: there is +15 (21-6) after six minutes played!
Fortunately, the bad French pass is only temporary: after two time-outs in the first quarter, France gradually regains its spirits, and especially its defense, when Andrew Albicy and Terry Tarpey go up in speed.
Captain Evan to the rescue
At the same time, Evan Fournier takes his responsibilities in attack: the captain of the Blues assumes this status on the ground and plants 11 points at 4/5 on shots in the first quarter, then already points to 17 points after sixteen minutes played. In addition, Moustapha Fall offers great sequences off the bench, including a furious dunk after a perfectly negotiated “post-up” phase against Jonas Valanciunas.
But if it managed to come back up to Lithuania halfway through the second quarter (31-31), France did not manage to take control of the score. Nothing to worry about however, because it must be said that the overall pace of the match slowed down sharply, and during the rest of the first half there was a crossover between the two teams. At the break, there was only one possession difference (41-40), and France, after a chaotic start, finally displayed a reassuring face.
Back from the locker room, the Blues restart with their feet firmly on the floor, and a big pass from Guerschon Yabusele followed by an award-winning shot from Terry Tarpey allows them to take the lead (48-46).
This lead is only kept for a few seconds, however, since the French players fail to capitalize. We find the evils of the start of the match, with in particular a very feverish attack: only ten points scored in this third quarter. To make matters worse, Evan Fournier, who is going through a weak time, is not there to come to the rescue again.
A confused second period, but a managed “money-time”
But the Knicks player has a mind, and immediately finds his basketball when the time comes to take responsibility. The number 10 thus scored 8 points in the last quarter, including the winning shot which allowed France to move to +3 (67-64) in the “money-time”. Then at +7 (71-64), after a mid-range shot from Thomas Heurtel and a shot from behind the arc from Terry Tarpey, whose defensive activity was close to perfection during this meeting.
The final seconds are quite incredible, since Lithuania, in the game of 3-points for the last chance, picks up one last time at -2. But Evan Fournier and Rudy Gobert did not tremble on the free throw line, and France snatched, after an intense effort, their first victory of the competition (77-73).
Despite a failed start to the match and a few slumps in the second half, the Blues reacted with style. This match was a “must-win” so as not to fall into a disaster scenario, and the French provided the essentials, showing character. Vincent Collet’s men can now breathe, and approach the rest of the group stage with a little more serenity, even if the road is still long.
Photo credit: fiba.basketball