By Yarone Arbel
It took France 66 minutes to arrive at EuroBasket 2005 but when they did, there was no stopping them as they sailed past Bosnia-Herzegovina in the second half for a 79-62 win.
Needing to make amends for their woeful appearance against Greece on Friday, the French hangover carried over into the first half against a Bosnia-Herzegovina side which had also threatened to upset Slovenia before losing that contest.
The Balkan team was on top of their game against France until the mid-point of the third quarter. That is when they caved in under enormous defensive pressure from France and went on to suffer their 11th straight defeat in the EuroBasket competitions.
French coach Claude Bergeaud said: "It was a tough game. I don't know why it started so bad, but after half-time we recovered our intensity on defence.
"Bosnia can be a dangerous team, and they showed that during some parts of the game. Now we wait for the game tomorrow. I think we can improve every game and I hope we will improve."
Bosnia-Herzegovina will try to break the streak on Sunday against Group C juggernauts Greece while France take on Slovenia.
Not surprisingly, two of France's NBA stars led the way to victory.
|Tony Parker struggled against Bosnia-Herzegovina|
What was surprising, however, is that one of those Frenchman was not Tony Parker.
Instead, Boris Diaw poured in 23 points, dished out seven assists and grabbed seven rebounds while Mickael Pietrus had 22 points and seven boards.
"We came back from the half-time break more aggressive and played better on both ends," said Diaw. "That's why we won the game.
France struggled with their shooting in the first half when they made only 11 of 31 from the field (35%) and six out of 13 (46%) from the free throw line.
After Mujo Tuljakovic scored his first points in EuroBasket 2005 to give Bosnia-Herzegovina a 47-43 advantage 6:20 into the second half, the French woke up.
And it was Diaw time as the French forward scored eight consecutive points to spark a 17-2 run for his team.
During that stretch, Bosnia-Herzegovina lost Jasmin Hukic and Kenan Bajramovic to fouls, players they can ill afford to be without. That was the end of the road for them.
France have yet to get the best out of NBA champion Parker, the San Antonio Spurs point guard. Diaw and Pietrus shone, but what got them victory was their ability to play aggressive defence and put the result beyond doubt.
As opposed to the 22 turnovers against Greece, France committed only nine on Saturday - four by Parker who was a mere one of 10 from the field and finished with two points.
"There's no need to explain the differences between the two teams," said losing coach Mensur Bajramovic. "France is the better team. We sincerely hoped we could surprise them and win this game."
Mrsic became a factor with 3:20 to play in the first quarter.
France were leading 12-10 at that point, when Bosnia-Herzegovina went on a 12-4 run, led by Mrsic, who scored half of the points for the team in the opening quarter, including an off balance buzzer-beating three-pointer to make it 22-16 after 10 minutes.
Mrsic continued to show no mercy, and by the 15th minute had already contributed 16 points.
His shot from behind the arc gave his team a 29-21 lead.
Pietrus led a 6-0 spurt for France with four points, but Hukic hit his second three-pointer of the game to set the half-time score at 36-31 for Bosnia-Herzegovina but then could not fend off the French in the third quarter and slipped to another defeat.
Cyril Julian continued his good form with 11 points and six rebounds for France.
Mrsic had eight rebounds but 0 assists to go along with his game-high 24 points, while Henry Domercant contributed 13 points one six of 16 shooting from the field.
"We gave our best but we couldn't win," Mrsic said. "We watched the game of France yesterday and saw we what we would try to take advantage of, and tried to do that today, but as as you saw we did our best and France won the game. Tomorrow we'll try to do the best and surprise the Greek team."
"We had a great first half, and the important thing is that we did the things we agreed on before the game," Bajramovic said.
"The second reason why we were so good in the first half is because of Mrsic who made several great crazy shots. I demanded from my players to change the defence more often so we could confuse the opponent.
"We couldn't do that without defence, and the French team started to play very aggressively. When our players fouled out, we couldn't deal with that.
"We also tried to be as aggressive as the French team but we couldn't match them. In some moments they also played dirty. I would like to congratulate my team for fighting very well in this game, and we didn't have enough concentration in the second part of the match.
"We won't change anything for tomorrow. We'll try to give our best again. Greece is in top form, they seem unbeatable, but we'll try to do it."