France must have heard that the United States wants to change the words to the New Colossus and then SWIPE! We’re rolling, folks. Before Kemba Walker even knew the game started, the French were attacking. Frank Ntilikina subsumed a bobbled ball and Kemba was officially shackled. It took thirteen seconds.
Tied after one quarter, the Americans did what they could to keep pace through the first half. Perhaps sensing the need to spearhead an impromptu expedition deep into the Hainan Province, Donovan Mitchell dashed headlong into the French defense. He found a fellow patriot in Marcus Smart, whose dastardly battering ram attacks kept the Americans seizing forward. Despite this, Kemba was constricted by the length and pressure, he could barely breathe. Jayson Tatum previously swept aside by an ankle injury was unavailable. Jaylen Brown made the occasional swoop into the fray but mostly found himself overmatched by the giant Rudy Gobert in the lane. Were there more Celtics? Why didn’t Brad Stevens coach this game?
Nearly double the rebounds for France. Literally double the points off turnovers. Evan Fournier and Nando de Colo helped pace les bleus, while Gobert punctuated plays through sheer size and force. The real exclamation point came as Feisty Frank came to play in the fourth quarter. He buried a three on a dribble pull up after careening over a screen to tie it late. Nailing a side step pull up, over Walker’s tiny little outstretched arm, to give them a commanding 6-point advantage with two minutes to go. The blood was cold, the jello was scared to jiggle.
Somewhere in Los Angeles, Bill Simmons prepared three different ways to deliberately mispronounce “Ntilikina”. Practicing his vocal shrug en route to absolving the Celtics-infused woeful display and the injury bug that bit them. Meanwhie Kevin O’Connor chortled out some vindicated cookie crumbs onto Chris Vernon’s empty desk. It’s not minimalist, I assure you. Tell your stories walking, ring dings. Today we drink from the French chalice and slather our baguettes with the finest rillettes. Adieu.
- This masterful fourth quarter was bottled for pickling when we saw a fatal stonewalling of Harrison Barnes on an ill advised post up. Driving right, spinning left, inside pivot, rip through, stumbling forward. Called for a walk. Could have been a charge. He never really got by Frank and if he had, Gobert was laying in the reeds waiting to annihilate some leaning junker. As Dr. Obe said in game thread, don’t you ever post up my baby boy, our powerful, young Frank.
- Kemba Walker would probably develop an eating disorder if he watched the video of this befuddlement of a performance. He just got squished repeatedly. Frank’s size and length just hung over Kemba. Bumped him off those good spots he gets to. Generally made life one big stress headache. Even when Frank took a break, Walker had no hope. Andrew Albicy came in and immediately clawed the ball away from Walker and laid it in. Instantly!
- Speaking of Albicy, it’s easy to see the 29-year old make a couple baskets, get a steal and think: well what is Frank doing that this guy isn’t? And it comes down to fine details. Both may make a pocket pass out of a pick and roll. The difference is that Frank’s drop softly into Gobert’s flippers whereas Albicy has to send a missile. With an Albicy pocket rocket, Rudy mishandles, shoots short, rebounds, clunks, rebounds, scores. With Ntilikina you can cut out the first few of those steps. It’s the little differences. Le Big Mac.
- Marcus Smart took some plays personally and was able to make a few things happen, but also found himself hanging on for dear life a few times. At one point he threw himself into the fray and got a three point play. Later he got caught on Gobert’s hip and could work his away around as Rudy caught a beautiful bounce pass from Fournier and elevated for the slam. Smart will miss the rest of the tournament with a knuckle injury. And no, not the knuckle in his head.
- Tom Thibodeau was announcing the game on ESPN2 and he muttered his way through 40 minutes of game so affectless that it was somehow enthralling. It was as if he were narrating the ingredients of a salad bar to you, over the phone, inside a library. “The chopped tomato adds the color red. Combined with some leafy greens, and a little spinach perhaps, you really start to see the makings of a salad here. That’s a crouton. You can really get this thing going when you choose a protein. Chicken and chickpeas may have no relation for some reason, but what they do is really effective out there. Now cucumber isn’t a secret ingredient at all, but you need to get that more involved. Gotta have a dressing, I’d put ranch and call it a day. What you do have is some options in that department though, so it’s good to see.”
- Anyway. It wasn’t all perfection for Frank. He still looks so completely to pass, that the defense waits on his dish, and they can eventually step in to force an unnecessarily troublesome situation. One time Frank turned the corner to the hoop, drew Myles Turner out of the paint a bit, and rather than get the ball on the tin with a floater, he took one more dribble and tried to sneak a bounce pass behind two defenders. Gobert is a very big boy, take the shot, let him clean up if you miss.
- The good thing is that this tournament and this game in particular have been big confidence builders for the kid. He seems much more prepared to take open shots, attack the lead foot on hard close outs, and use his length to finish past the defenders. Hitting some of the biggest jumpers in French national basketball folklore history should do him some good as well.
- Lots of people are going to say this needs to be taken with a grain of salt because this wasn’t USA’s A-team. It was the C-Squad. That doesn’t mean the French had the skill gap advantage. Besides that, Frank still put the screws to some All Star and All NBA players while making some of the most crucial buckets imaginable. It doesn’t count for nothing. These reps will set him up for bigger opportunities to showcase his skills. And I could be wrong but this seems good in a tight game:
Total points scored over the final seven minutes of the 4th quarter in France’s victory over America:— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) September 11, 2019
Frank Ntilikina: 7
Team USA: 5
That’ll do it for the carcass of this one. The US will go on to get clobbered by Serbia Thursday. France’s next game is Friday at 8:00 AM against the jack rabbit, Facundo Campazzo and Argentina. Tie your robe and let’s get funky, Ntilikina’s hot girl summer is reaching an ignition point!