France won the third place game today, getting revenge over Australia for an earlier tournament defeat. Nice way to end their run at the FIBA World Cup. Rudy Gobert and Frank Ntilikina were relative non factors in the game with poor shooting efforts and Gobert unable to stay on the floor. France elected to go small late in the game and Nicolas Batum, Nando de Colo and Andrew Albicy did the requisite damage to drive the French over the top.
It’s too bad that French coach, Vincent Collet, didn’t think to go small in the previous game against Argentina. Especially when Ntilikina was repeatedly puncturing the Argentine defense. Nevertheless, a third place finish, and a great tournament overall for Frank.
This should give him a lot of juice heading into vet camp, which is right around the corner, and presents a whole new set of challenges. Hopefully he sees Elfrid Payton and Dennis Smith Jr. as marks that he can take out his frustrations on. Frank’s handle is much improved, it’s quicker and tight to his body. He’s also not shielding the defender with his backside all the time, instead facing and using his length to gut an overzealous defender. His shooting stroke has started to fuse with his growing body. It may be time to consider him done growing at 6’7” with 90’ arms. Still just 21 years old, it’s getting a little easier to see a bright future for the Sultan of Swipe.
As for this bronze medal game, the early struggles, including nine offensive fouls in the first half, made for a mini Col du Tourmalet for les bleus. Punctuated by Aron Baynes resuming his sharpshooting against France from the top of the key. All tournament Gobert had absolutely no interest in getting out to contest the three point line. Australia seemed to anticipate that. Whod’ve thunk it? Here Vincent Poirier stays in the shallows to help with Patty Mills and Ntilikina closes out slowly.
As per the norm, Frank’s defense waxed heinies. He’ll certainly want to get together with his French teammates again at the Tokyo Olympics next summer.
We’ve been cheering him on and enjoying his success throughout the World Cup. Can’t wait to see his next steps. Sign the guy with max wingspan to a max extension, am I right? Congrats to Ntilikina and France.
Also asked how aware he is that Knicks fans have been encouraged by his performances with France and want to see him get more of a shot next season, Ntilikina broke into a smile and told me: "I feel their support every day."— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) September 15, 2019
Special thanks to Dallas Amico for some live-to-slack reporting. While I tried to wake up, Dallas had enough grit and determination to just stay up.