Great Britain have finally broke their 2012 duck. Chris Finch’s men defeated Portugal 83-68 in Sheffield in the first of two friendlies between the sides this weekend.
Luol Deng hit 21 points to lead the hosts, with Pops Mensah-Bonsu adding 12 points and 12 rebounds.
It was a welcome tonic after seven straight defeats but the guests made it tougher than expected.
GB – without Joel Freeland – started the game slowly, falling 13-7 behind as the Portuguese made the most of their long-range shooting.
A Deng three-pointer kick-started a GB comeback as they went on a 7-0 run, taking the lead on a pair of Mensah-Bonsu free-throws.
GB built a small cushion but ended the quarter ahead only 18-17 after Portugal scored a put-back at the buzzer
The hosts got off to a strong start in the second period when a Dan Clark dunk was quickly followed by a three-pointer from Andrew Lawrence. Despite GB building a 26-18 lead, Portugal hit back with an 8-0 run to tie the game.
Mike Lenzly responded with a much-needed three-pointer but Portugal soon grabbed the lead and extended it to 39-33 before late scores from Mensah-Bonsu and Clark saw the gap cut to 39-37 at the half.
Portugal opened the scoring in the third but GB responded with a 10-0 run, capped by a Deng lay-up off a great pass from Lawrence.
The visitors lost their shooting touch thanks in part to the defensive pressure shown by Great Britain who extended their lead to 62-45 heading into the final quarter.
The deficit was cut to 66-56 in the fourth but GB responded immediately with a three-pointer from Deng that effectively ended the contest.
“It was a real good performance,” commented GB head coach Chris Finch. “I thought if we played well today we would get the win.
“I liked our intensity, I liked our tempo, and we made shots in the second where we hadn’t made shots consistently before that.”
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