Great Britain are still seeking their first win in their Olympic build-up as France delivered a devastating rally from behind to take a 79-74 victory in a friendly in Orleans on Saturday.
Luol Deng had a game-high 23 points and 11 rebounds on his first appearance for GB this summer but it was over-shadowed by a collapse from a position of strength.
Up 20 points in the second period, and by 16 in the third, GB lost their composure and a seemingly inevitable win disappeared.
And it will get no easier when they travel to Valladolid now for a clash with Spain on Monday.
GB head coach Chris Finch will review the first half with joy and the second with despair.
“We played well and to be honest we played well overall and we have gone a few steps forward now building up to the Olympics,” Finch said.
“We played good basketball against a world quality opponent but we didn’t respond well when the game got ugly in the second half but it’s a great experience for these guys and we are still trying to grow together as a team.”
Mike Lenzly broke open an early deadlock and sparked a first quarter bombardment that caught the French cold, even with Tony Parker making a surprise appearance in the starting line-up after returning from the United States following treatment for his eye injury.
The Spurs guard’s cameo lasted only five minutes and his return to the bench co-incided with a spurt from the visitors. Up 24-15 after the opening period, Finch’s men pulled out even more stops.
A 19-2 run over eight minutes was capped by a three from Dan Clark from the corner. Eventually their advantage peaked at 43-23. Deng’s presence opened up ample opportunity for GB’s shooters. There was much to enjoy in the ball movement.
Britain’s lead held at 43-25 at half-time. But their momentum stalled, then went into reverse.
Nando de Colo, soon to join Parker at the San Antonio Spurs, drove with far too much ease to the basket on multiple occasions during a 12-2 run that cut into their deficit.
GB woke up, Deng hitting two threes in quick succession amid a 9-1 run that opened up a 54-38 cushion.
Foul trouble broke their rhythm once more. Yakhouba Diawara found his shooting touch. Les Bleus made their move.
Slowly but surely, the hosts advanced as the guests regressed uncomfortably. Turnovers proved costly.
Down 51-43 with ten minutes left, France exerted more and more defensive pressure as their energy surged.
Wth 4:20 left, Kevin Seraphin hit a hook shot to tie the game at 68-68. Then Pops Mensah-Bonsu fouled out after a tussle with Diawara to hinder GB’s hopes.
Boris Diaw hit a free throw that put his side in front for the first time since the fifth minute. Deng levelled. With two minutes left, it was the last time the French would not be in front.
Florent Pietrus converted five late free throws and with Joel Freeland also fouling out, GB were left to ask some hard questions as their sixth consecutive loss was confirmed.
Diawara and Diaw had 14 apiece to pace France.
Notes: Great Britain starters: Reinking, Lenzly, Deng, Freeland, Mensah-Bonsu. France: Parker, DeColo, Gelabale, Diaw, Turiaf. Parker scored 2 points in his playing time of 5:37.
Russia, Lithuania London bound
Russia defeated Nigeria 85-77 to qualify for the Olympic tournament, winning the semi-final at the qualifiers in Venezuela.
The second berth went to Lithuania, who defeated the Dominican Republic 109-83.
The two losing semi-finallists play off on Sunday for the last spot in London. A draw will be held after the final game to decide where the three qualifiers go in the groups in London
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