By Simon Wilkinson
France’s “supporting cast” came through in tremendous fashion to help the team boost their chances of making it to the quarter-finals after a 78-66 win over Germany today.
Tony Parker finished with a team-high 23 points but it was the play of his team-mates Florent Pietrus and Tariq Kirksay that helped put Les Bleus in a good position in Group F.
Parker was on the bench for the early part of the second quarter when Claude Bergeaud’s men used a 15-2 run to turn a 28-28 tie into a 43-30 lead thanks to the play of Pietrus and Kirksay.
They each had five points in the spurt, one that proved decisive as Germany rarely got any closer than six points the rest of the way.
Pietrus admitted after the game that the players were much more aggressive than they had been in their group games.
“In the preliminary round we didn't move the ball well, and sometimes just watched Tony Parker makes plays,’” he said. “Today we did a much better job in that aspect. The players were more active and moves the ball and so it was easier for us to score and win the game.”
Another key factor for France was obviously to try and contain or at least slow down Dirk Nowitzki but more importantly to limit his team-mates’ contributions. Bergeaud was happy with his team’s performance in that regard.
|Nowitzki got few open looks|
at the basket against France
“Our goal was to limit the other players, and especially stop the way they develop the game to score from outside. We didn't mind their shooting inside, but not from the outside. During the game, our rhythm of fastbreak allowed us to control the tempo of the game, and the game was won 10 minutes before the end,” he summed up.
Bergeaud’s counterpart, Germany coach Dirk Bauermann was gracious in defeat and admitted that some minor plays decided the outcome of the game.
“They played a very good game and moved the basketball very well. Tony Parker did a good job with making shots. We didn't spent enough energy on the defensive end in the first half. We were just a rebound here and there from getting back into the game, but overall it was a disappointing game for us. We'll have to find our game for the next match to make it to the next level. Every time we needed to make a play on either hand we couldn't make it. It was one of those games.”
After the teams traded baskets for much of the game’s opening five minutes, France took the first significant lead thanks to a six-point possession.
With the game tied at 13 all, Germany turned the ball over and Steffen Hamann was called for an unsportsmanlike foul on the streaking Parker and the French guard converted both shots from the foul line.
Ronny Turiaf did likewise seconds later after he faked Patrick Femerling out of his shoes and the German center had no choice but to grab his opponent.
Boris Diaw then hit a jumper from the top of the key to go up 17-13.
France added four more unanswered points to cap a 10-0 run that turned a 13-11 deficit into a 21-13 lead.
Ademola Okulaja helped restore some offense for Germany and Bauermann’s side trailed 26-20 at the end of the first quarter.
Germany kept their good offensive momentum going early in the second quarter as Dirk Nowitzki scored six of his team’s next eight points to tie the game at 28 all with 7.27 left in the half.
However, that’s when the game really swung in France’s favour.
Pietrus hit a three-pointer off an inbound pass and Kirksay also connected from downtown on the team’s next possession to make it a 34-28 game.
Okulaja hit a pair of free-throws but Diaw then made a lay up and Yakhouba Diawarra had a fastbreak dunk to increase his team’s lead to 38-30.
Kirksay then scored a lay up, Pietrus hit another three-ball and Kirksay hit a hook shot to make it 45-32.
Nowitzki made a few tough jumpers to help his team cut the deficit to nine, 47-39 at the break on his buzzer beating three from the top of the key.
Germany looked like they were ready to make a game of it early in the third quarter when they forced France into several turnovers and capitalised on them.
Hamann scored four points in a 6-0 run to get his team within two, 47-45.
France though didn’t panic and this time it was Parker’s turn to delivered for them as he accounted for seven of the team’s next 12 points as they took a 62-49 lead into the final period.
Les Bleus went up by as many as 18, 69-51, on Kirksay’s breakaway dunk. Germany then scored six unanswered points to come back within 12 but Parker hit a timely three-pointer from the right corner and, after Nowitzki hit a long bomb of his own, Kirksay immediately answered to put France up 76-62 with just over 2:30 left in the game and they held on until the end.
Pietrus and Kirksay finished with 12 points each with the former going a perfect four for four from the field, including two for two from downtown. Turiaf added 11 points and Diaw chipped in seven points and 10 rebounds.
Nowitzki had a game-high 28 points - on 12 for 26 shooting from the field for Germany and Okulaja added 14 points and nine rebounds.