By Josh Cohen
Sept. 6, 2017
ORLANDO — The French have a couple of days to practice before the knockout round of EuroBasket 2017 starts on Saturday. It’s clear after Wednesday’s blowout loss that they have a lot to fix during their preparations.
Slovenia played with far more zest and precision in a 95-78 victory over France.
Evan Fournier fouled out with 5:21 remaining and picked up his second technical immediately after, which resulted in an automatic ejection. The Orlando Magic swingman finished with 11 points. Foul trouble limited him to just 18 minutes of action.
The disparity behind the 3-point line was significant. Slovenia knocked down 10 3-pointers and France made only four from long distance. Slovenia led by as many as 29.
Group A pool play was very erratic for the French, who won three of the five games but never looked dominant during any stretch. They lost a heartbreaker in overtime to host Finland to open up the tournament and then won three straight against inferior opponents (Greece, Iceland and Poland).
A drubbing to undefeated Slovenia, however, diminishes France’s status a bit heading into the next phase of the competition. The good news is that France has shown remarkable resilience and an ability to overcome adversity in recent international tournaments.
France will play Germany, which finished second in Group B, in the Round of 16. These two countries last faced off at EuroBasket 2013 with the Germans pulling off a surprise win during the preliminary round.
Both teams have drastically different rosters since that meeting. Dennis Schroder (Hawks) and Daniel Theis (Celtics) are Germany’s top two players. Isaiah Hartenstein, who was drafted by the Rockets in the 2017 NBA Draft, is another quality player on its roster.
Playing without Tony Parker, who retired from his national team after last year’s Olympics, and other prominent stars like Rudy Gobert and Nicolas Batum has been somewhat of a challenge for France, which won the EuroBasket title in 2013 and placed third in 2015.
However, the French still have enough talent to make a deep run in the knockout stage. It’s critical for Fournier and France’s other two premier backcourt players, Nando de Colo and Thomas Heurtel, to play at their best.