By Josh Cohen
Sept. 2, 2017
ORLANDO — It was exactly what you would expect from a resilient and ambitious French basketball team.
A stunning upset loss to a seemingly inferior opponent was followed by an imposing performance against a tough adversary.
Just two days after falling to host Finland in a thriller, France rolled past Greece, 95-87, on Saturday in Helsinki.
We’ve seen these kinds of dramatic turnarounds before from France, which overcame a devastating defeat to Spain in the semifinals of EuroBasket 2015 with a convincing win over Serbia to capture third place. The prior year at the 2014 FIBA World Cup, France was almost out for the count with some crushing losses in pool play before rallying in the knockout round and finishing third with a memorable triumph over Lithuania.
Despite some of its more renowned stars not participating, including Tony Parker (retired from national team and injured), Rudy Gobert and Nicolas Batum, France always seems well prepared especially in critical games.
Evan Fournier, who in prior international tournaments was merely an ignitor off the bench, is now one of France’s most well-rounded offensive players. After erupting for 25 points in the loss to Finland, the Orlando Magic swingman recorded 21 points in Saturday’s victory. He converted on a momentum-shifting AND-1 with 4:19 left and made nine of his 12 free throw attempts.
Joffrey Lauvergne, who signed with the San Antonio Spurs this offseason, had one of his all-time best performances for his national team. He shot 10-of-14 from the floor and finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds.
Greece cut France’s once 24-point lead to six twice down the stretch but France made enough big plays to secure the win. Thomas Heurtel buried a dagger triple with 48 seconds left.
This was the first meeting between France and Greece in an international tournament since 2011. The two countries faced off in the quarterfinals of EuroBasket that year with France advancing.
France, which many considered the favorites to finish atop Group A heading into the knockout stage, has a quick turnaround as it suits back up on Sunday to battle Iceland. This is the second straight EuroBasket Iceland is participating in after failing to qualify in the past.