Posts Tagged ‘Vincent Collet’

France shocks Spain, giving Team USA clearer path to gold


VIDEO: FIBA: Day 2, Quarterfinals Wrap

MADRID – The dream of a Spain-USA final at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup is dead.

France ended it Wednesday with a stunning, 65-52 defeat of the Spain in the quarterfinals, playing a near perfect game to keep the hosts from even playing for a medal.

The USA’s chances to win its fourth straight international gold increased dramatically with Spain’s ouster. The Americans still have to get through Lithuania in the semifinals on Thursday and the winner of Serbia-France in the gold medal game on Sunday.

After a 2-3 performance in Group A, Serbia has played fantastically in the knockout rounds, beating 5-0 Greece and 5-1 Brazil by a total of 46 points to reach the semis. And if France continues to play the defense that it played on Wednesday, it can beat anybody.

But Spain was obviously the biggest threat to the USA’s winning streak, now at 43 games after Tuesday quarterfinal win over Slovenia. In fact, Spain looked like the World Cup favorites, with a full roster and a raucous home crowd behind them. Group A was the toughest pool in the tournament, as evidenced by its 4-0 record against Group B in the round of 16, and the hosts rolled through it, beating Brazil, France and Serbia by an average of 19.7 points.

On the other half of the bracket, Australia made a clear effort to avoid the U.S. until the semifinals and better its chance for a medal with who and how they played in their final pool-play contest. France had the opportunity to do the same with Spain, but played its final Group A game to win.

“We know, being third, we could cross with Spain in the quarterfinals,” France coach Vincent Collet said after his team’s win over Iran last week. “That’s basketball.”

Australia played to lose and then lost to Turkey in the round of 16. France played to win and pulled off the biggest upset that we’ve seen in a long time in international basketball. They simply outplayed Spain on both ends of the floor.

“For Spain, it was not that easy to play against us a second time,” Collet said afterward. “I think the big spread (24 points) of the first game was something important for us, because it was more motivation. We used it. We showed the players how bad we looked during the first game sometimes.”

The French players said they came in with a nothing-to-lose attitude and felt that all the pressure would be on Spain if the game was close down the stretch.

“It’s tough sometimes for a team to play at home,” Boris Diaw, who led France with 15 points, said. “I think we had the motivation to win and they had the motivation to not lose.”

But the pressure wouldn’t have been on the hosts’ shoulders down the stretch had France not played terrific defense. It started in transition, with France holding Spain to two measly fast break points.

In the half court, the Spanish guards mostly got nowhere on pick-and-rolls, as the French bigs hedged and then recovered quickly to their man. France’s rotations were sharp, keeping Spain from getting clean looks at the basket. As a result the hosts shot a brutal 2-for-22 from 3-point range.

Inside, the Spanish frontline of Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka was neutralized by Diaw and France’s pair of young centers, Joffrey Lauvergne and Rudy Gobert, who both played the games of their lives.

Pau Gasol scored a game-high 17 points, but didn’t dominate like he had in earlier games. His brother and Ibaka both shot 1-for-7.

Lauvergne played the Gasols strong in the post, forcing them into tough shots away from the basket, and grabbed 10 rebounds in less than 17 minutes of action. Gobert outrebounded the Gasol brothers, 13-12, himself.

Gobert, the 22-year-old who played in just 45 games as a rookie for the Utah Jazz last season, has had a limited role on this team, backing up the smaller Lauvergne at center. But at 7-1 with a 9-foot-7 standing reach and a lot of bounce, he has a world of potential. He played a tourney-high 23 minutes on Wednesday and was, for the first time, on the floor down the stretch of a close game.

“He has a real desire to do good,” Collet said. “I think the dunk early in the game tonight gave him special energy and, for sure, he did an incredible job.”

Gobert had a strong Summer League. But this was a much bigger stage. He started to realize some of that potential on Wednesday, taking on the challenge of defending Pau Gasol and holding his own. He came up with one incredible block of an Ibaka tip-in and later swatted Gasol at the rim.

“He was incredible on defense,” France point guard Antoine Diot added. “When he plays like this, with his head, he’s fantastic.”

“For myself, I always knew I could help the team win,” Gobert said. “All my teammates played great offensively and I just had to guard Pau, because Pau is one of the best players in the world. If you stop him, they’re not the same team.”

Indeed, Spain played awful, and not just on offense. While France’s defense was near perfect, Spain’s guards got beat back-door countless times, leading to layups, open shots and offensive rebounds for France.

“We weren’t well prepared for this game,” Juan Carlos Navarro said.

Spain had looked determined to win this tournament on its home soil and to avenge gold-medal-game defeats to the U.S. in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Both Gasols showed up in Granada for pool play in terrific shape, while Navarro looked sharper than he did for FC Barcelona last season. Spain was a juggernaut through its first six games, jumping out ahead early and bullying its opponents into submission.

But when it was forced to play from behind and feel the pressure of a nation of fans on its shoulders, the team crumbled under all that weight. After trailing by seven at the half, Spain forced turnovers on France’s first four possessions of the third quarter and took a one-point lead into the fourth. But France answered with a 7-0 run and put the building on high alert.

“We kind of knew if we stay close,” Nicolas Batum said,  “at the end of the game, they’re going to doubt, because they can’t lose that game.”

They did lose that game. There will be no USA-Spain final, because the hosts failed to do their part.

“It was a painful loss, disappointing,” Pau Gasol said. “This team had such high expectations. We had played an incredible tournament up to this point. It just wasn’t our night.”

Fournier lifts France into quarters

MADRID – Orlando Magic coach Jacque Vaughn was in Granada for the first three days of Group A games at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup. Vaughn was there to watch and support France’s Evan Fournier, whom the Magic acquired from the Denver Nuggets in June.

Vaughn almost went without seeing Fournier make a shot. As the fifth guard in France’s rotation, the 21-year-old didn’t see much playing time and missed his first seven shots of the tournament before hitting an open, 15-foot jumper late in the first half of France’s third game, an easy win over Egypt.

Fast forward a week and Fournier was playing a big role in France’s 69-64, round-of-16 victory over Croatia, lifting les Bleus into the quarterfinals, where they will likely meet tourney favorite Spain.

With France struggling offensively (to put it lightly) and down 15-7 after the first quarter, Fournier began the second period on the floor. He missed his first couple of shots, but scored seven of France’s 16 points in the period, helping les Bleus take a one-point lead at halftime.

At that point, Fournier jumped a couple of more spots in the French guard rotation, starting the second half. Midway through the third quarter, he pushed France’s lead from four to 10 with a personal 10-0 run, which included his second fast-break and-one of the game.

France’s defense did its part through the first three quarters, holding Croatia to just 19 points on 8-for-32 shooting over the second and third. Croatia found something in the fourth with Ante Tomic dominating the smaller French bigs in the post and Bojan Bogdanovic hitting some big shots on his way to a game-high 27 points. But their comeback fell short when Bogdanovic’s pull-up three did the same with 20 seconds left.

Fournier finished with 13 points and four rebounds, and was a game-high plus-16 in 19:29. Afterward, he looked back at that first bucket against Egypt as a key moment.

“It was a big moment for me,” Fournier said, “just to watch the ball get inside the rim, get my rhythm going, because I was missing easy shots, open shots.”

After those first seven misses, Fournier shot 11-for-19 in group play, and French coach Vincent Collet got him some more playing time in the team’s Granada finale against Iran. That move paid off Saturday when Collet’s team needed an offensive lift.

Collet said that Fournier has always had the potential to provide some punch to the offense, but needs to learn not to force things.

“Very often, that’s not a good way to be good,” Collet said. “So we talked with him since the beginning of the competition to explain that he has to be a little bit more patient. He has to let the game come to him.”

Fournier did that for the most part against Croatia. There was one moment, however, that drove Collet crazy. Croatia went to a zone midway through the third quarter, and on the first possession, Fournier launched a long 3-pointer early in the shot clock, a shot that could have been had at any point.

“He doesn’t know yet the basketball game,” Collet said, “not enough.”

Fournier has a few good teachers around him, Collet and Boris Diaw with the national team, and Vaughn in Orlando. He’s only 21 and has two more years on his rookie deal, a big reason the Magic got him for veteran Arron Afflalo, who can become a free agent next summer.

Right now, playing this tournament without Tony Parker, France needs whatever lift Fournier can give them. He’s certainly found a better rhythm since that ugly start in Granada.

“I just kept shooting the ball,” Fournier said, “and now I’m more comfortable, getting better and better. Hopefully, I can build from it and play a good quarterfinal.”

Spain, France Set To Battle In EuroBasket Finals

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The stage is set. Spain and France will battle it out for the crown of the best team in Europe at EuroBasket 2011, their invitations to next summer’s Olympic games in London are set now.

How’d they get here?

That’s what we (my main man and NBA.com‘s John Schuhmann kicks things off today) are here for …

Spain 92, FYR Macedonia 80 (Boxscore)

From the start of this tournament, we all expected Spain to make the final and earn one of Europe’s two guaranteed spots in next year’s Olympics. But none of us expected FYR Macedonia to be the last team standing between the defending European champs and that Olympic berth.

Getting through this semifinal was no walk in the park for Spain. The defending champs didn’t take control of the game until late in the third quarter when Juan Carlos Navarro caught fire. Navarro scored 19 of his 35 points in the third, at one point hitting a ridiculous running three at the shot clock buzzer, to give Spain a nine-point edge heading into the fourth.

The Macedonia offense, which had struggled all tournament but scored 45 points in the first half, couldn’t keep up with Navarro’s onslaught. And with the Gasol brothers almost outrebounding Macedonia by themselves, Spain was just too much for the underdogs.

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Gasols Lead Spain Into Quarterfinals

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The three matchups in Group E action Friday at EuroBasket 2011 did not disappoint. Defending champion Spain flexed its muscle yet again, Germany bowed up to the challenge against Turkey and France and Lithuania delivered on the promise of an absolute thriller.

On top of that, spots in the quarterfinals were clinched in the process …

Spain 84, Serbia 59 (Box Score)

Any questions about Pau Gasol‘s complete recovery from his struggles during the NBA playoffs should be clear to anyone watching him in this competition. He joined his younger brother Marc Gasol in punishing Serbia from start to finish as Spain secured its ticket to the quarterfinals in a runaway. Pau finished with 26 points, 15 in the first half, while Marc countered with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

While this wasn’t necessarily a rematch of the 2009 gold medal game, won going away by Spain, it was a reminder for Serbia and every other team in this competition just how powerful Spain can be when they have two healthy Gasols and our main man “The Stockbroker,” Juan Carlos Navarro, clicking along with the rest of a deep and talented roster. Navarro finished with 14 points.

Serbia knocked off Spain in the quarterfinals at last year’s World Championships in Turkey, when Pau Gasol was out injured. It wasn’t even close this time around. “We played a great game for 40 minutes,” Spain point guard Jose Calderon said. “We were concentrated from the start. Everybody was ready to help each other. “We all wanted to stop (Serbia point guard Milos) Teodosic and we did that. It was a great victory. We have to be proud of holding a great team like Serbia to 59 points, but we have to continue to work hard because we have more games to play.”

Two of Spain’s other NBA players, Calderon and Rudy Fernandez, joined the Gasols and Navarro in the starting lineup. Calderon played a turnover-free 20 minutes and finished with eight points, five rebounds and three assists. Fernandez showed off his versatility, with five rebounds, three assists two steals and the play of the game, a wicked first-quarter block of a Milan Macvan layup.

Germany 73, Turkey 67 (Score)

The hero’s cape is usually reserved for Dirk Nowitzki and he did his part, draining four straight free throws to seal this huge, stay-alive win for Germany. But he had company in the fourth quarter of this one. Philipp Schwethelm did his damage from distance, scoring 11 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, including three huge 3-pointers.

The win sends Germany into Sunday’s showdown with Lithuania with a chance to advance to the elite eight of this competition, with another gutsy, comeback effort like this one. “We played our worst first half of the summer but we only trailed by a few points at the break,” Schwethelm said. “In the second half we made big shots and we won.”

Chris Kaman had 20 points and seven rebounds to power Germany inside against a formidable group of big men at work for Turkey. Nowitzki dealt with foul trouble throughout the game but still managed to score 19 points.

Omer Asik and Enes Kanter are the two big men from Turkey we were talking about. And they were rugged in this game. Asik finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds while managed 11 points and three rebounds. They still have a showdown with Serbia on tap this weekend, a game they’ll need their bigs to dominate if they want to win. And Sunday’s game against Serbia is a must-win if Turkey wants into the quarterfinals (they also need Germany to lose

France 73, Lithuania 67 (Box Score)

The best way to avoid the drama of the complex tiebreaker system to advance to the quarterfinals is to stay perfect, which is exactly what France did by outlasting Lithuania before a hostile, host-nation crowd at Vilnius Arena. We haven’t mentioned him before now, but Nando De Colo (you’ve got to love that name) was spectacular. He led France with 21 points, five steals and four rebounds. He scored 13 of his points in the fourth quarter to help seal the deal.

Tony Parker came through with another solid effort, scoring 19 points. Joakim Noah‘s work on the glass (game-high 13, six offensive), though, was particularly crucial in such a hostile environment. Noah will have his hands full Sunday when France takes on Spain and the Gasol brothers, so it’s probably a good thing that he is cranking it up now.

With their quarterfinals slot already locked down, Friday’s game was yet another opportunity for France to prove their mettle. “For us, this is our biggest performance in Lithuania,” France coach Vincent Collet said. “To do it in Vilnius, in front of this crowd means that we are a real team. Nando made very big shots that helped us get back in front.”

After riding a red-hot 3-point shooting performance to victory over Serbia in their last game, when they shot 11-for-20 from distance, Lithuania’s shooters came back to earth against France. They made just seven of their 23 attempts from that range Friday. If not for solid outings from Simas Jasaitis (13 points) and Jonas Valanciunas (12 points), this one might not have stayed as tight as it did down the stretch.

*** The six teams in Group F will back on the court Saturday, starting with Georgia-Finald, F.Y.R. Macedonia-Slovenia and finishing up with Greece-Russia. ***