By Cindy Garcia-Bennett
A defiant Slovenia side edged France 67-66 to clinch top spot of Group D.
With Slovenia leading 67-65 with 0.1 seconds left to play, France had a chance to take the game to overtime but Tony Parker only made one of two attempts from the charity stripe to give their opponents their third straight win.
With Jaka Lakovic heavily marked by Les Bleus, Slovenian guard Domen Lorbek came up strong for his team on the night.
Lorbek sank the crucial free-throws to give his team the lead for good with 12 second left on the clock.
The 22-year-old finished with 15 points and was a pefect five for five from the field and four of five from the charity stripe.
"We were lucky in the end and we won the game," said Lorbek.
Slovenia felt unjustly punished when the official threw out captain Rasho Nesterovic of the game after a foul on Parker three minutes into the third quarter but it by no means hindered his team.
"I am very proud of my team-mates for what they did tonight," said Nesterovic. "They showed a lot of character and unity to come from 15 points down and win the game."
The center’s disqualification saw France go up 48-33 but a never-say-die Slovenia hit back with a 16-3 run to take a 52-51 lead with two minutes left to play in the quarter.
"Nesterovic's departure changed the game completely," said France coach Claude Bergeaud.
"We played slow on offense and defense and in the last minutes of the game we had little energy and we lost our concentration."
Bergeaud had requested his team to have a balanced scoring and a better sharing of the ball after Parker's heroics led to a win over Italy.
His wishes were immediately answered with France having four different players scoring his team's first points - Parker did finish with a game-high 25 points while Ronny Turiaf added 15.
|Turiaf's 15 points weren't|
enough as France lost their way
Following a level first quarter, Les Bleus stepped up their defense and limited Slovenia to one point over the next three minutes as they went on a 7-1 run to take command.
France suffered a setback with, Turiaf - their leading top scorer (10 points) at that point in the game - left the court after sustaining a right shoulder injury following a foul from Nesterovic.
Parker hit his team's first three-pointer with less than two minutes to go in the first half.
It sparked his team on a 7-0 run, with the NBA superstar scoring five points in that surge to help France take a 39-31 half-time lead.
Bergeaud’s men committed just two turnovers in the first half while their opponents turned the ball over nine times.
France led 56-52 going into the final period but their hopes of pulling away were quashed as Slovenia kept hitting back.
With 54 seconds remaining and France leading 65-64, Parker missed a three-point attempt and his team-mate Tariq Kirksay fouled Lorbek, sending him to the line.
Lorbek made one of two to tie the contest at 65 a piece with 36 seconds on the clock.
Kirksay then missed a jumpshot and Lorbek again was sent to the foul line with 11 seconds left after being foul by Florent Pietrus. He made the pair to see Slovenia remain undefeated (3-0) in the group.
Slovenia were 18 for 24 (75%) from the free-throw line while France were 21 for 30(70%).
Slovenia out-rebounded France 32 to 27.