By Cindy Garcia-Bennett
Tony Parker poured in a game-high 36 points to give unbeaten France (2-0) a 69-62 triumph over Italy (0-2)
With the score at 60-60 with three minutes remaining, Les Bleus went on a 9-0 run, with Parker scoring four points in that game-winning surge.
He finished 12 of 22 (55%) from the field, grabbed three rebounds and dished out two assists.
"I felt I had to be aggressive," said Parker."It’s just basketball, it comes and it happens. Every game is going to be different and I don't think I need to score 30 points every time because the French team is better than that. We can all play together and tomorrow it will be a different game.
"We have to improve on our offense but as long as our defense works we can win games."
Andrea Bargnani, who led Italy in scoring with 16 points, put his terrible start to EuroBasket 2007 quickly behind him.
|Belinelli finished with 15 points|
but it wasn't enough
He scored the first seven points of the game, while it took France five minutes before they scored a point and only when Parker buried a three-pointer.
Thanks to their guard, who scored 13 points, France kept pace and only trailed 20-17 at the end of the first quarter.
A one-handed dunk by Boris Diaw tied the game at 22-22 midwway through the second period.
But Italy kept their noses in front as Bargnani continued to take care of the scoring. They went on a 6-0 run late in the period to take a 33-24 lead, with Massimo Bulleri adding four points in that surge.
Carlo Recalcati's men went into the break with a 36-31 advantage, with Bargnani leading the way with 13. Parker had 15 for Les Bleus
France stepped up their defense and limited Italy to just five points in the first eight minutes of the second half as they used a 18-5 run to take a 49-41 lead, with Parker accounting for 12 points in that surge.
Marco Belinelli's two-handed dunk allowed Italy to go into the last quarter trailing by only four, 51-47.
Stefano Mancinelli scored five consecutive points at the start of the final frame to get the Azzurris back in front, 52-51.
The teams then exchanged the lead before France pulled away to seal the win.
"I am partly satisfied because my team showed an improvement with respect to yesterday's game (69-68) defeat to Slovenia)," admitted Recalcati.
"However, I am disappointed with the result and with the fact that my team lost its character when it mattered. Parker made the difference."
Italy were a mere six of 13 (46%) at the free throw line while France were 12 of 16 (75%).
France outrebounded Italy 40-31.