GUEST RECAP TIME!
It’s ya boy Prez AKA Julius Rambles AKA Young RJ Barrett Old Man Professor Clothes AKA Draft Prep P AKA Lamelo Ball Majority Shareholder **Funk Flex airhorns**
While most of us slept, France began what is shaping up to be an absolutely brutal second round group stage versus a stout and physical Lithuanian team, starring none other than our beloved sons and Garden Favourites Frank Ntilikina and Mindaugus Kuzminskas!
France had a different veteran player prop up the offense each of the first three quarters. In the first quarter it was darkest-timeline-French-future-RJ-Barrett, AKA Nicolas Batum, who went off for nine of his 12 points, getting to the line a few times as well to keep Lithuania at arms length. Frank entered the game late in the first, but his stint was short-lived, unproductive, and chaotic: he picked up three fouls in the second quarter. Two of those were very ticky-tack calls, especially by the standards of the more physical FIBA game. Both should have been no calls. The third foul was a frustration foul by Frank, who picked it up when he was screened and decided to push the screener (who was probably moving a bit) rather than get around it.
The fouls weren’t limited to Frank either — Lithuania, especially the burly Jonas Valunciunas, took advantage of the poor officiating during a stretch without Rudy Gobert on the court, narrowing the French lead to single digits in the process.
Frank left the game and Nando de Colo entered and had what was probably his best stretch of the tournament — he was making quick decisions to pull from three (and hitting), getting to the rim, and carrying the French team for the second quarter while Frank sat. France went into halftime up 10.
The first half of the third quarter was mostly a slog of more fouls and stout defense by both teams, with Fournier and France hitting timely jumpers to keep Lithuania at arms length, up by as much as 17. France played both Nando and Frank at the same time for a while, and Frank tried some fancy footwork taking his man off the dribble and spinning and almost-winning until the layup rimmed out. Shortly after, he picked up his fourth foul. A few minor scraps and kerfufles led to additional Lithuanian free throws (France has done this every single game I believe), and the Lithuanians shortened the lead to 11 entering the fourth, with Frank, Fournier, Gobert, de Colo, and Albicy all having three or more fouls.
The less said about the fourth quarter, the better. Lithuanian NBA powerhouses Valanciunas and Domantas Sabonis played stout defense and rebounded the hell out of the ball, getting the Lithuanians several baskets from offensive rebounds and assists. At one point, with four minutes left, Lithuania took the lead on a 3-pointer. De Colo hit a big three to take the lead back, Gobert led the French defense and drew two shooting fouls (missed three of four free throws, though) during the battle of attrition over the last few minutes. France got away with a goaltend on a freethrow that would have tied the game, De Colo hit a big jumper to get France to 78 and up three with about 20 seconds left, and that was all she wrote.
Frank was pretty ineffective on offense — Lithuania did a good job packing the paint and not letting him find space off of curls when he did play (which is where he’s had a lot of success in the last week), without selling out and abandoning the French bigs. Frank was content to kick the ball out and reset most of the time, declining to keep his dribble and reset it himself or take a pullup jumper. They also didn’t let him (or France) get free for much transition (both shooting and passing). France’s offense ended up being dependent on pullup shooting by Fournier and de Colo with a smattering of paint work by their bigs. Batum (2-6), Fournier (2-5), and De Colo (3-6) hit timely threes, and each of them (along with Gobert) played 24 or more minutes.
Next up for France is a tough game against Australia on Monday. We’ll see if Franky boy can be a bit less handsy, especially given he’ll likely be chasing FIBA Gawd Patty Mills a decent amount. Hopefully Evan Fournier (who led all scorers with 24 points this game) can keep that strong balding hooper energy next time around too.