|10 September 2013|
By Mark Woods
|"Sometimes the sub-conscious is very tricky" - Boris Diaw |
Which French alter ego will show up in the Second Round of EuroBasket 2013 and beyond - Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?
We saw both on Monday in their final game of the opening phase in Ljubljana, woeful for 20 minutes, deadly and impressive for 10, enough to torture Belgium, sufficient to get by.
That's been the grand tale so far in Slovenia for Les Bleus. Defeated surprisingly by Germany in their opener, they have won four straight since but rarely have they shown the dominance expected of a team with so many NBA-level talents and the energy and smarts of Tony Parker.
As we approach the business end of the competition, will the real France please stand up?
"If we want to go to the final, we have to play like our best for an entire game," admitted France forward Mickael Gelabale. Nothing less. Their first half, he said, against the Belgians was "a disaster". Even the very best teams find it hard to switch their electricity on and off.
Their numbers have impressed. A tournament-best 80.6 points-per-night. An assured 58% shooting inside. The emergence of Alexis Ajinca as a reliable force in the post. Still, at times though, an over-reliance on Parker to bail them out when trouble looms. They have been, so far, very average in allowing opponents to make 43.5% of their field goal attempts, trailing all of their would-be rivals for this championships.
It hints, just a little, at some complacency. "Sometimes the sub-conscious is very tricky," Boris Diaw declared. They will need to get their heads on straight. Carrying forward two wins will make their route to the quarter-finals straightforward. Overcoming Serbia, Latvia and Lithuania should be well within their capabilities. But their ambitions lie beyond. "We're looking for the medal," Gelabale stated. "And I think we have a great chance to do it this year."
To achieve that, finally, France must re-focus and re-confirm their intentions. Coach
promises that we will see the best of Les Bleus from this point onwards, that they will bring their A-Game rather than be Z-List.
"A new competition starts on Wednesday," he said. "We will do differently. The way we start the game will change. Because have no doubt about our goals. I know my players. I know how much they want to succeed.
"So now, the danger will be very close. I think we need this danger to play at our level."
Will that be the spur that drives France back to another EuroBasket final next week? "I hope so," Collet added.
"I have no choice, I have to hope."